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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Machair



Beach view through the machair

Machair (pronounced "macker", at least by my Scottish friends) is a unique natural environment found on the west coasts of the Hebridean islands.

Sand in the Hebrides is composed mostly of ground up shells (I heard a figure like 90%). Peat is naturally acidic, and the shells are alkali, so when the sea breezes blow sand across the peat fields it reacts to form a pH-neutral and very fertile environment.

(What do you mean, you didn't come here for a science lesson?!)

The net result is that, around June/July every year, the ground erupts into a blanket of flowers. Here are some pictures of the meadows to show what that means in practise:

Machair

Machair & the beach

Machair

Bear in mind that this is a broad strip along the whole western coast of various islands. It's a sight to behold - although there are downsides for those of us with hayfever!

We camped on the machair a couple of nights, and found the texture of the soil is very sandy, making it easy to get the tent-pegs in but I did worry about whether we'd have stayed anchored in a storm! Thankfully we were very lucky with the weather.

Camping on the Machair

Common flowers include buttercups and clover, but also loads of others I've not seen before. I especially love the tiny purple ones. Here are a couple of close-ups:

Machair flowers

Machair flowers


7 comments:

A Scattering said...

Thank you for taking me along to Scotland again. I swear I could feel the bracing breeze in the first photo.

lostinsophistication said...

It is not more than right that I repay the science lesson you gave me, with a science lesson of my own.

The yellow flowers in your close-ups are Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum), and the purple ones you were so fond of are Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrihus).

It seems that I at last found some use for the many pointless botanical facts I learned last semester!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

As usual, your photographs make me miss our trips abroad... Just lovely.

Dave King said...

Superb photographs that really pull - and why do the empty ones pull the most?

Debbie said...

The flowers and the water are just beautiful.

Dave King said...

P.S.
I came back for another view and became totally absorbed in your photo stream. Beautiful and fascinating. Some of the standing stones images moved me particularly. Where exactly, by the way?
Oh, and I meant to say last time: I enjoyed the science lesson. Think you could say, I'm a fan!

Strange Mamma said...

Playing catchup now that I'm home. Love these pictures. It makes me want to go camping. Jeff and I have been wanting to get out and explore more on weekends, we really want to get up to Scotland. I wonder how Asher would do with camping now that he's a bit older? Hmm...might have to see.

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