An Aberdeenshire estate could hold the key to the survival of increasingly scarce tree species.
Rare willow seedlings have been successfully grown by the National Trust for Scotland on its Mar Lodge Estate.
As part of a conservation project, ecologist Shaila Rao and her colleagues have been working to bolster the population of downy and whortle-leaved varieties on the 29,000 hectare estate.
Their continued existence in Scotland is under threat.
Mrs Rao said: “Our aim with this project is to give these remnant rare willow populations a boost so they have the ability to reproduce, regenerate and expand by themselves in the future.
“In early summer this year, we visited all the downy and whortle-leaved willow sites, collecting cuttings and seeds from each population.
“Trees for Life are now growing the cuttings for us in their nursery at Dundreggan, Glen Moriston and will create a bank of trees for each willow species from which seed can be collected in the future.
“This seed will be used for growing on seedlings to plant at Mar Lodge Estate in a few years.”
Mar Lodge Estate currently supports a number of different willow species and is the largest nature reserve in the UK.
Mrs Rao added: “It may be a long way off, but these steps are the first in recreating the precious montane woodland habitat which has almost been lost from Scotland.”