The Machair in Flower – May

Meadow buttercup

I know that the machair is about to burst into flower when the grass becomes speckled with the small white flowers of our common daisy (Bellis perennis). As the days pass the grassland slowly turns into a sea of waving golden heads of meadow buttercups (Ranunculus acris). Tall and elegant they sway in the breeze and turn their heads to follow sun. These two plants are characteristic of dry machair plant communities.

Next comes the stylish ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) stately parading amongst the drifts of birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) which form pools of molten gold among the fresh green  grass.

These are not rare plants, and once hay fields across Britain would have been filled with similar flora  delighting the eye and humming with the sound of bees.

In the wetter parts of the machair the flowers of other species appear adding different colour notes to the palette.
Each year is different and after a very wet winter and an unusually moist early spring the machair appears to be particularly verdant. Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) is not a plant that I normally associate with machair, but this year it clothed some of drier banks, which rise above some of the moister grassland, with swathes of blue.

Eraly Marsh Orchid

As the month progresses the squat spikes of the first marsh orchids begin to appear.  Short and plump and varying wildly in colour from magenta to salmon pink, the scattered early marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza incarnata) punctuate the flora tapestry.
Tall willowy spikes of lady’s smock or cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis) with their dainty, tissue paper flowers mark the areas of damp grassland; a warning to step carefully and look for some of the smaller flowers that also like wet feet.
Amongst the rushes and mosses are scattered groups of common butterwort, a plant with carnivorous habits. Its lime green leaves excrete sticky fluids to attract insects and then curl around to digest the trapped victims.

As the water begins to seep around your boots as you walk towards the wet margins of the lochs, clumps of marsh marigolds or kingcups (Caltha palustris) sit in the boggy areas or in the bottom of the ditches. An exuberant buttercup creating flashes of yellow against the water’s edge.

3 thoughts on “The Machair in Flower – May

  1. Thank you – I enjoyed our walk through the machair! Such a beautiful range of flowers, and no doubt a whole array of insects appreciating them too.

    • There will be another walk soon hope you can join us. Lots of insects too – bumblebees and hoverflies all busy pollinating. Still a little early for butterflies, just a few Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and Green-veined Whites.

  2. I love the sight of the wild flowers I know from my childhood. Thanks!

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