Red Clover (Photo: Laurie Campbell)
The red clover is one of the most common machair plants, and also gives the machair its distinctive smell.
It is a very important plant because it takes nitrogen from the air and ‘fixes’ it with its roots. This means it turns it into salts that other plants can use, so basically it helps to feed other plants. Long ago people realized that it was important to grow red clover with other plants, and so they took red clover with them to other areas. This is how it has spread throughout Europe.
It is an important flower for bumblebees, and in some places it is known as ‘bee bread’.
Hebridean fishermen used the strong smell of red clover to help them navigate back to land on misty days.
Red Clover on Machair (Photo: Scottish Natural Heritage)
by Alison Tyler