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St Kilda Today > Studying the Natural Environment > Vegetation


Because of its geographical position, St Kilda has a restricted flora compared with the Scottish mainland, with many families of plants poorly represented. Even so, a total of 174 species of flowering plants have been recorded from the islands. There are no proper trees or shrubs - least willow and creeping willow are both present, but these only grow a few inches high. As the land is no longer cultivated, there are no arable weeds. However, there may still be dormant seeds lying beneath the previously cultivated parts of the islands, which might germinate if the soil was disturbed.

Buttercups and irises in the Village Meadows
Photograph: Glasgow Museums

Primroses growing on the exposed cliffs of Oiseval
Photograph: Glasgow Museums
Soay sheep have a major effect on the vegetation. Most of the island is heavily grazed and the soil is fertilised by sheep droppings. However, on cliffs, walls, the tops of some cleitean, and in other places inaccessible to sheep, many plants flourish. Vegetable enclosures once used to protect crops from the wind and sea spray, today protect wild plants from sheep.

Ungrazed by sheep, and fertilised by bird droppings, common sorrel grows luxuriantly beside puffin burrows on Dun
Photograph: Glasgow Museums

Roseroot clings to a rockface
Photograph: Jim Vaughan

© The National Trust for Scotland