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More Magic From The Machair

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The magical machair, caught between salt-sea and peatland.

This Mother's Day, we're looking ahead to brighter days as spring begins to unfold here in the Outer Hebrides. 

While many folks will give their mum a lovely bunch of blooms this year, but here in Harris we're sharing the beauty of Machair flowers.

So, we thought we'd journal more of this wonderful place, a shoreline swathe of sandy soil which straddles the boundary between land and sea.

Bumblebees abound in and around the annual eruption of wildflowers.

This low-lying fertile plain is one of the rarest habitat types in Europe. It is so important in ecological and conservational terms that this Gaelic word has become a recognised scientific term. 

Think of it as a gentle pasture where sands from the beach encroach onto the peat found further inland. Here in this shifting alkaline soil of broken seashells, a riotous carpet of wildflowers grows each year.

Erupting in waves of colour from late spring and through the summer months, this land becomes a temporary home to many small and strange-sounding plants like Kidney Vetch, Bird's Foot Trefoil, and Yellow Rattle. 

Rare birds like Lapwing live among the fragile machair ecosystem.

The Hebridean machair is also the last stronghold of birds like the Corncrake, Twite, Dunlin, Redshank, and Ringed Plover who all thrive here, nesting and feasting on the insect life drawn by the flowers.

Bees are buzzing here too, most notably B. distinguendus, or the Great Yellow Bumble Bee, an exceedingly rare species now found only in the Hebrides and other northerly islands.

This beautiful bee is one of several bumblebee species to have undergone a drastic reduction in range and abundance due to loss of habitat in the modern agricultural landscape. 

Up close with Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

The low-impact style of crofting here has helped preserve this bumblebee friendly habitat through short seasonal grazings and small-scale, far less intensive crop growing.

William MacGillivray, the famous ornithologist, gave this poetic description that paints a picture of the machair formation in 1830:

"..the fragments of the shells of molluscous, rolled by the waves towards the shore, where they are further broken down and comminuted. The wind then blows them beyond the watermark, where, in the presence of time, they cover the fields and pastures…"

 The stunning purple and white petals of the Spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

These beautiful flowers are a joy to behold but are best left unpicked. However, if you get the chance to see them in person, please help protect machair systems by treading carefully and taking only pictures.

And if you can't be here, then our new limited edition Mother's Day cards capture a little of their colour and beauty, along with a Gaelic song to digitally stream, and an exclusive cocktail recipe too.

We'll be delighted to include this card, complete with your message handwritten here in Harris with every online order, helping you to share more magic from the machair on Sunday the 27th of March.




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