Bringing to life spectacles of natural wonder on our doorstep
The Machair boasts one of the greatest wildflower displays anywhere in the British Isles. The variety of plants is astonishing especially during the late spring and summer when visitors are treated to a colourful carpet of flowers. The machair season kicks off in mid spring (May) and runs to August - and the colours change as the season progresses starting with a general yellow including Buttercups, Marsh Marigolds, Yellow Rattle, and Kidney Vetch. The colours then progress through to pinks and purples as the season moves into August.
A stunning array of plants flourish in the machair because the soil which is rich in lime. As a result the machair is home to rare flowers including Irish Lady's Tresses, Orchids, and Yellow Rattle. Its meadows are also rich in Red Clover and Scottish Bluebells.
There are more than 20 different species of bumble bee in the UK and some of the rarest and most threatened can be found in the remote machair habitat.
The survival of some bee species in the machair is thought to be down to the length of their tongues. Species with long tongues such as the Great Yellow Bumblebee are reliant on flowers with long petals like knapweed, clover and vetches. These flowers have suffered from the disappearance of their habitat across most of the UK - but they thrive in the machair.
The machair landscape is devoid of wooded areas and there are no trees, giving the landscape an 'open' feel.
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Jaybee and NE Wildlife, Paul Grennan, Natural England and RSPB Images.
Visit the meadows of the Machair and its stunning flowers on the Western Isles, Scotland with presenter Sanjida O'Connell:
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'Machair' is Gaelic for 'low lying fertile plain'. It's one of Europe’s rarest habitats and is only found along the north-western side of the Scotland from the islands of Coll and Tiree up to the north western tip of the mainland.
A great place to see the machair is South Uist, one of the UK’s last great wilderness areas. Mainland Scotland lies a few miles to the east and the next substantial land area to the west is North America, 2,500 miles away.
The secret of the machair lies in the soil and the way the land has been managed by generations of crofters who farm the western side of Uist..
The landscape is heavily exposed to the elements especially wind which is responsible for the formation of the machair. Machair is created when wind blown sand is deposited onto naturally peaty soil.
The sand has a high shell content – up to 90%, so it is lime rich – and it neutralises the acidic soil – allowing a vast array of plants to flourish.
The crofters take their livestock off the land in May and leave areas fallow. They also use natural fertilisers like seaweed, which means that the wildflowers get a chance to burst through. Crofters only cut the grasslands after the flowers have seeded in late August-September. The low intensity style of farming on Uist used to be common across the UK. Today this traditional farming practice is crucial to the survival of the machair landscape.
Moths are fascinating creatures and you can find several hundred different species just in your garden.
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