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Machair Flowers: A Harris Top Five

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The riot of colour that carpet the Harris west coast each year.

With Mother's Day approaching, we've been celebrating the joys of the Harris 'machair' over the past few weeks.

A rare shoreline habitat, this fragile ecosystem plays host to a riot of colourful wildflowers, which erupt in waves from late spring and long into the summer months.

There is a myriad of species to spy as the season rolls on but here are five of our favourite machair flowers which are easy to spot next time you visit.

The humble daisy is often the herald of the machair season.

The surprisingly sturdy heads of the harebell bring colour to the shore.

1: Common Daisy (Bellis perennis)

The machair season often begins with a wonderful white carpet of tiny petals, so we're starting with praise for the humble daisy too. Although less rare than many wildflowers that share these sandy shores, there's something rather beautiful about their simplicity when seen in scale. Their bright yellow discs, each made up of tiny individual flowers, almost glow in the late evening light.

2: Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

With its papery petals and delicate appearance, you might think the harebell a somewhat fragile wildflower. But it's incredibly tough and resilient, which it needs to be given the windswept environment it grows in. Also known as the Scottish Bluebell, this little flower has a powerful reputation in folklore, as witches were reputed to use them to transform themselves into hares to disguise themselves in times of trouble.

The wild spotted orchid, the Hebridean variety is also a protected species.

Red clover, a traditional ingredient for folk medicine.

3: Hebridean Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii ssp. hebridensis)

This wild orchid appears in early summer and has a rich perfume. Their purple-spotted, lance-shaped leaves have dense spikes of deep magenta flowers. This low-growing species is a rare gem and unique to the western isles. It's also protected by law, so best resist the urge to pick them.

4: Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Not as common as its white relation, the bursts of colour from this beautiful little plant makes it popular with our native bumblebee population. Often used in traditional medicine, red clover potions were used for respiratory ills like asthma and whooping cough. However, there is science behind the superstition, and extracts from red clover are used today to help with high cholesterol levels!

Beautiful Bird's Foot Trefoil, although it's the seed pods which inspire the name.

Add a little of the Machair's magic this Mother's Day

5: Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

This pretty member of the pea family has small yellow flowers which look like little slippers. But it is their seed pods that look distinctly like bird's claws and give them their unusual name. Unlike many machair flowers, these are poisonous to eat, but the sheep seem to enjoy them with no ill effects.

So, make plans to come and see this glorious season in the island calendar yourself from May onwards. You'll find plenty of our favourites on show, and more, along the western shores.

Or, let us bring the machair to you. You can share some of its magic with a special mum this year, with our limited edition card, included with your order free of charge, along with a hand-written message.

Just visit our online store for more...

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