Nature Champions: Alpine Blue Sow Thistle


Alpine Blue sow-thistle is a tall herbaceous perennial associated with Scotland’s rare habitat of species-rich mountain grassland. It occurs naturally in four small mountain-ledge populations all within the Cairngorms National Park. Its restricted distribution reflects a legacy of long-term vegetation change, leading to the overall decline of its preferred habitat. It is categorised as Vulnerable in the Red Data List for Great Britain, receives protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and is on the Scottish Biodiversity List. Research into Alpine Blue sow-thistle is part of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme

Action Needed

  • Support research to deal with threats to future survival, such as the loss of genetic diversity in small, isolated populations.
  • Advocate for the population recovery of rare and threatened montane plants as part of landscape-scale restoration.
  • Press for action on key challenges, such as climate change, pollution and unsustainable grazing pressure.
  • Develop and implement a coherent Scottish Nature Network so actions can be targeted to support species and habitats


Alpine Blue sow-thistle is a plant favoured by herbivores and it survives today in a few locations inaccessible to grazing. The remaining small populations, with low genetic diversity, are less resilient to other challenges such as climate change, the outbreak of pests and diseases and are also threatened by ad hoc losses such as landslips. 

MSP Nature Champion

Graeme Dey

Member for: Angus South

Region: North East Scotland

Party: Scottish National Party

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