Autumn is one of the best times of year to come and view the aspen woodland on the east shore of Loch Kinord. The trees make an impressive sight as their trembling leaves turn a brilliant yellow, contrasting wonderfully with the wintery grey skies which we are experiencing.
The aspen woodland here is one of the biggest in Scotland. Although important in itself, the woodland provides habitat for many other species such as the aspen hover fly and aspen bristle moss. The bristle moss, a Red Data Book species, was once thought to be extinct in Scotland. It is only found in two other locations, in much smaller numbers. The aspen hoverfly is one of several rare fly species which depend on dead aspen wood as the fly larvae live under the rotting bark and feed on bacteria from the decaying sap.
Aspen leaves are borne on long, laterally flattened stalks and so catch easily on the wind. It is this property which gives aspen its characteristic trembling appearance, and its Latin name Populus tremula.
The trembling leaves are also the inspiration for the folklore surrounding aspen. Early Scots believed it was a magical tree, perhaps because the rustling leaves sound like the whispering of spirits. In the Highlands it was considered a taboo to use the wood in the making of agricultural or fishing implements. In Christianity it is seen as a tree of mourning and sadness. Apparently aspen was used to make the crucifix which Jesus was hanged on so the tree shivers in shame.