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Which seed should I use?

Whether you wish to create a meadow from scratch or introduce more wildflowers and grasses into your meadow or grassy area, or within your garden lawn, our species lists are here to guide you.

A wildflower meadow with yellow, white, purple flowers in among the grass. The meadow is in Ryewater, Dorset. Image is by Jo Costley.

When selecting seeds, the first things to think about are:

  • soil type
  • fertility levels
  • problem plants and how to manage them.

You can do this by understanding what the species that are already there are telling you about your soil, fertility and its existing species, and/or by carrying out a soil test. If you are wishing to introduce more species to an existing grassland, then knowing what you already have is important so that you can tailor what you introduce to be an appropriate match.

It is best to survey your grassy area over the summer and use our handy ‘plant forensics’ guide to help you understand which species are likely to do well, before purchasing any seed.

We recommend using local seed mixes which you can check against the most appropriate species list below to be sure of a good match. Alternatively, if you know a local meadow with appropriate species, and you can organise either green hay or brush-harvesting, or even hand collecting ripe seed of specific species, this would be even better.

Choosing your species

field full of variety of flowers in pink, yellow purple

To help you on your meadow-making journey, we have made these lists as a starting point for creating or restoring grassland in a typical species-poor or species-moderate grassland scenario.

Please note that these are not definitive lists, and different sites and situations may require a more bespoke approach. If your grassland is outside of the ‘norm’ such as within a national park or AONB – then contact us for a more bespoke guidance on seed-mixes which will reflect the site’s regional distinctiveness.

For example, a pH neutral hay meadow in the south west of England won’t have the same community as a neutral hay meadow in the Lake District . We have also left out species which are very geographically specific. So, if you have an unusual site with potential to support a rare habitat, then contact us for more bespoke list.

These lists divide the species into Groups 1, 2 and 3, in order of their fussiness to levels of fertility and difficulty establishing from seed-introduction.

  • Group 1 – fertility-tolerant and easy to establish from seed
  • Group 2 – moderate fertility, moderate colonisers from seed
  • Group 3 – poor colonisers, sensitive and poor soils only, may need introducing via established plugs

No quantities have been outlined in the lists below because seed providers should be able to provide this detail, or already have this outlined in their meadow-mixes. In general, however, grassland communities will be between 50-80% grass, and those with high fertility will usually settle into a higher percentage content of the grass species.

Species lists for different grassland types

pH Neutral grassland 5-6.5

  • Group 1

    • Black/Common KnapweedCentaurea nigra 
    • Burnet SaxifragePimpinella saxifrage 
    • Common Birds-foot TrefoilLotus corniculatus 
    • Meadow Vetchling – Lathyrus pratensis 
    • Ox-eye DaisyLeucanthemum vulgare 
    • Rough HawkbitLeontodon hispidus 
    • Bulbous ButtercupRanunculus bulbosus 
    • Common Cat’s-earHypochaeris radicata 
    • Common SorrelRumex acetosa 
    • Lesser TrefoilTrifolium dubium 
    • Ribwort PlantainPlantago lanceolata 
    • Meadow ButtercupRanunculus acris 
    • Red Clover (native variety)Trifolium pratense var pratense 
    • SelfhealPrunella vulgaris
    • YarrowAchillea millifolium 
    • Wild Carrot – Daucus carota 
    • Germander SpeedwellVeronica chamaedrys 
    • Black MedickMedicago lupilina 

     

  • Group 2

    • Autumn HawkbitScorzoneroides autumnalis 
    • Goat’s-beardTragopogon pratensis 
    • Musk MallowMalva moschata 
    • AgrimonyAgrimony eupatoria 
    • CowslipPrimula veris 
    • Lady’s BedstrawGallium verum 
    • Salad BurnetPoterium sanguisorba 
    • Yellow RattleRhinanthus minor 
    • BugleAjuga reptans 
    • Tufted Vetch – Viccia cracca 
    • Eyebright sp – Euphrasia sp. 
    • Common Milkwort – Polygala vulgaris 
    • TormentilPotentilla erecta 
    • PignutConopodium majus 

     

  • Group 3

    • Betony – Stachys officinalis
    • Common Spotted-orchidDactylohiza fuchsii (If more alkaline)
    • Bee Orchid – Ophrys apifera 
    • Pyramidal OrchidAnacamptis pyramidalis (If more alkaline)
    • Dyer’s GreenweedGenista tinctoria 
    • Wood AnemoneAnemone nemorosa 
    • Field ScabiousKnautia arvensis 

     

  • All these grasses can be introduced as seed (as per Group 1)

    Grasses to introduce (if absent):

      • Yellow Oat-grass – Trisetum flavescens
      • Smooth Meadow-grassPoa pratensis 
      • Meadow FoxtailAlopecurus pratensis 
      • Smaller Cat’s-tailPhleum bertolonii 
    Grasses (additional) if bare soil:

      • Yorkshire-fogHolcus lanatus 
      • Red FescueFestuca rubra 
      • Crested Dog’s-tailCynoscurus cristatus 
      • Common BentAgrostis capillaris 
      • Sweet Vernal-grassAnthoxanthum odoratum 
      • Meadow BarleyHordeum secalinum 

Wetter soils/floodplain (neutral pH 5-6.5)

  • Group 1

    • Ragged RobinSilene flos-cuculi 
    • CuckooflowerCardamine pratensis 
    • Great BurnetSanguisorba officinalis 
    • Greater Bird’s-foot TrefoilLotus pedunculatus 
    • Common SorrelRumex acetosa 
    • Lesser TrefoilTrifolium dubium 
    • AngelicaAngelica sylvestris 
    • Ribwort PlantainPlantago lanceolata 
    • Meadow ButtercupRanunculus acris 
    • Red Clover (native variety)Trifolium pratense var pratense 
    • Common FleabanePulicaria dysenterica 

     

  • Group 2

    • MeadowsweetFilipendula ulmaria 
    • Marsh/Fen BedstrawGallium uliginosum 
    • Water MintMentha aquatica 
    • Common BistortBistorta officinalis 
    • Common Meadow-rueThalictrum flavum 
    • Pepper SaxifrageSilaum silaus 
    • SneezewortAchillea ptarmica 
    • Creeping JennyLysimachia nummularia
    • Water AvensGeum rivale 
    • Narrow-leaved Water-dropwortOenanthe silaifolia 
    • Tufted VetchViccia cracca 
    • Marsh MarigoldCaltha palustris 

     

  • Group 3

    • Devil’s-bit ScabiousSuccisa pratensis 
    • Saw-wortSerratula tinctorium 
    • BetonyStachys officinalis 
    • Marsh SpeedwellVeronica scutellata 
    • Marsh ValerianValeriana dioica 
    • Southern Marsh OrchidDactylorhiza praetermissa (where more alkaline)

     

  • All these grasses can be introduced as seed (as per Group 1)

    Grasses to introduce (if not present):

    • Meadow FoxtailAlopecurus pratensis 
    • Sweet Vernal-grass  – Anthoxanthum odoratum 
    • Marsh FoxtailAlopecurus geniculatus 
    • Crested Dog’s-tailCynosurus cristatus 
    Grasses (additional) if bare soil:

    • Creeping BentAgrostis stolonifera 
    • Yorkshire-fogHolcus lanatus 
    • Red FescueFestuca rubra agg. 

Lowland acidic grassland (pH < 5.5)

  • Group 1

    • Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil – Lotus corniculatus 
    • Rough HawkbitLeontodon hispidus 
    • Field WoodrushLuzula campestris 
    Where mildly acidic:

    • Common Cat’s-earHypochaeris radicata 
    • Lesser TrefoilTrifolium dubium 
    • Ribwort PlantainPlantago lanceolata 
    • SelfhealPrunella vulgaris 
    • YarrowAchillea millifolium 
    • Black MedickMedicago lupilina 

     

  • Group 2

    • Sheep’s SorrelRumex acetosella 
    • Heather/Ling  – Calluna vulgaris 
    • Heath BedstrawGallium saxatile 
    • Lady’s Bedstraw (on mild acid)Gallium verum 
    • Lesser StitchwortStellaria graminea 
    • Bell HeatherErica cinerea
    • Common Bird’s-footOrnithopus perpusillus 
    • Common CentauryCentaurium erythraea 
    • Common Stork’s-billErodium cicutarium 
    • Heath MilkwortPolygala serpyllfolia 
    • Mouse-ear HawkweedPilosella officinarum 
    • TormentilPotentilla erecta 
    • Common Dog-violetViola reichenbechiana 
    • Heath VioletViola canina 
    • Autumn HawkbitScorzoneroides autumnalis (where mildly acidic)
    • PignutConopodium majus 

     

  • Group 3

    • Betony – Betonica officinalis
    • Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis
    • Heath Spotted-orchidDactylorhiza maculata 
    • Wild ThymeThymus polytrichus 
    • Blue FleabaneErigeron acer 
    • Wood AnemoneAnemone nemorosa 
    • HarebellCampanula rotundifolia 
    • Heath Speedwell (on anthills)Veronica officinalis 
    • Field ScabiousKnautia arvensis 
    • Bitter-vetchLathyrus linifolius 
    • Lesser HawkbitLeontodon saxatilis 
    • Biting StonecropSedum acre 
    • LousewortPedicularis sylvatica 
    • Saw-wortSerratula tinctoria 
    • Wood SageTeucrium scorodonia 
    • Sheep’s-bitJasione montana 

     

  • All these grasses can be introduced as seed (as per Group 1)

    Grasses to introduce (if absent):

    • Sweet Vernal-grassAnthoxanthum odoratum 
    • Common BentAgrostis capillaris 
    • Red FescueFestuca rubra 
    • Sheep’s FescueFestuca ovina 
    • Wavy Hair-grassDeschampsia flexuosa 
    • Squirrel-tail FescueVulpia bromoides 
     

    • Early Hair-grassAira praecox 
    • Silver Hair-grassAira caryophyllea 
    • Heath GrassDanthonia decumbens 
    • Fine-leaved Sheep’s fescueFestuca filiformis 
    • Velvet Bent (where damp)Agrostis canina  
    • Brown BentAgrostis vinealis 

Lowland Calcareous pH > 6.5

  • Group 1

    • Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil – Lotus corniculatus 
    • Oxeye DaisyLeucanthemum vulgare 
    • Rough HawkbitLeontodon hispidus
    • Kidney VetchAnthyllis vulneraria 
    • Chalk KnapweedCentaurea debeauxii 

    Where mildly alkaline:

    • Bulbous ButtercupRanunculus bulbosus 
    • Common Cat’s-earHypochaeris radicata 
    • Common SorrelRumex acetosa 
    • Lesser TrefoilTrifolium dubium 
    • Ribwort PlantainPlantago lanceolata 
    • Red Clover (native variety)Trifolium pratense var pratense 
    • SelfhealPrunella vulgaris 
    • YarrowAchillea millifolium 
    • Germander SpeedwellVeronica chamaedrys
    • Black MedickMedicago lupilina 

     

  • Group 2

    • CowslipPrimula veris
    • Autumn HawkbitScorzoneroides autumnalis (where mildly alkaline)
    • Tufted VetchViccia cracca (where mildly alkaline)
    • Dwarf Thistle – Cirsium acaule 
    • Lady’s BedstrawGallium verum 
    • Sainfoin – Onobrychis viciifolia 
    • Salad BurnetPoterium sanguisorba 
    • Carline Thistle (s-facing)Carlina vulgaris  
    • Yellow RattleRhinanthus minor 
    • Common Centaury (well-drained)Centaurium erythraea 
    • Bladder Campion  – Silene vulgaris 
    • Common Stork’s-billErodium cicutarium 
    • Mouse-ear HawkweedPilosella officinarum 
    • Thyme-leaved SandwortArenaria serpyllifolia 
    • Wild Basil (southern UK)Clinopodium vulgare 
    • MarjoramOriganum vulgare 
    • Yellow-wortBlackstonia perfoliate 

     

  • Group 2 or 3

    • EyebrightsEuphrasia officinalis agg. 
    • Autumn GentianGentianella amarella 
    • English Gentian (only in south and midlands)Gentianella anglica 
    • Common MilkwortPolygala vulgaris 
    • Saw-wortSerratula tinctorium 
    • SquinancywortAsperula cynanchica 
    • Lesser HawkbitLeontodon saxatilis
    • Common Restharrow 
    • Wild Strawberry 

     

  • Group 3

    • Field ScabiousKnautia arvensis  
    • BetonyStachys officinalis
    • Clustered Bellflower 
    • Common Rock-roseHelianthemum nummularium 
    • Devil’s-bit ScabiousSuccisa pratensis 
    • Common Spotted-orchidDactylohiza fuchsii 
    • Pyramidal OrchidAnacamptis pyramidalis
    • Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera 
    • DropwortFilipendula vulgaris 
    • Fairy FlaxLinum catharticum 
    • Greater Knapweed 
    • Hairy Violet 
    • HarebellCampanula rotundifolia 
    • Hoary PlantainPlantago 
    • Horseshoe Vetch 
    • Small ScabiousScabiosa columbaria 
    • Wild ThymeThymus polytrichus 
    • Large ThymeThymus pulegioides 
    • Biting StonecropSedum acre 
    • Bloody Crane’s-bill 
    • Common MilkwortPolygala vulgaris 
    • Chalk Milkwort 

     

  • All these grasses can be introduced as seed (as per Group 1)

    Grasses to introduce (if absent):

    • Upright Brome – Bromopsis erecta 
    • Crested Dog’s-tailCynosurus cristatus 
    • Red FescueFestuca rubra agg. 
    • Downy Oat-grassHelictotrichon pubescens 
    • Meadow Oat-grassHelictotrichon pratense 
    • Yellow Oat-grassTrisetum flavescens
    • Narrow-leaved Meadow-grassPoa angustifolia 
    • Quaking-grassBriza media 
    • Crested Hair-grassKoeleria macrantha 
    • Yellow Oat-grassTrisetum flavescens 
    • Sheep’s FescueFestuca ovina 

Upland habitats – all those grasslands which are above approximately 250m (sea level). If close to 250m and somewhat sheltered, the above lowland species may also thrive.

Upland calcareous pH > 6.5

  • Group 1

    • Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil – Lotus corniculatus 
    • Rough HawkbitLeontodon hispidus

     

  • Group 2

     

    • Salad BurnetPoterium sanguisorba 
    • Carline Thistle (s-facing)Carlina vulgaris 
    • Mouse-ear HawkweedPilosella officinarum 

     

  • Group 2 or 3

    • EyebrightsEuphrasia officinalis agg. 
    • Autumn GentianGentianella amarella 
    • SquinancywortAsperula cynanchica 

     

  • Group 3

    • Common Rock-roseHelianthemum nummularium 
    • DropwortFilipendula vulgaris 
    • Devil’s-bit ScabiousSuccisa pratensis 
    • Fairy FlaxLinum catharticum 
     

    • HarebellCampanula rotundifolia 
    • Wild ThymeThymus polytrichus 
    • Small Scabious Scabiosa columbaria 
    • Horseshoe VetchHippocrepis comosa 

     

  • All these grasses can be introduced as seed (as per Group 1)

    Grasses to introduce (if absent):

    • Upright Brome – Bromopsis erecta 
    • Crested Dog’s-tailCynosurus cristatus 
    • Red FescueFestuca rubra agg. 
    • Downy Oat-grassHelictotrichon pubescens 
    • Meadow Oat-grassHelictotrichon pratense 
    • Yellow Oat-grassTrisetum flavescens
    • Narrow-leaved Meadow-grassPoa angustifolia 
    • Quaking-grassBriza media 
    • Crested Hair-grassKoeleria macrantha 
    • Sheep’s FescueFestuca ovina 

Upland acid pH < 5.5

  • Group 1

    • Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil – Lotus corniculatus 
    • Field Woodrush – Luzula campestris 
    • Rough HawkbitLeontodon hispidus

     

  • Group 2

     

    • Sheep’s Sorrel – Rumex acetosella 
    • Heath BedstrawGallium saxatile 
    • Heather/LingCalluna vulgaris 
    • TormentilPotentilla erecta (group 2 or 3)

     

  • All these grasses can be introduced as seed (as per Group 1)

    Grasses to introduce (if absent):

    • Sweet Vernal-grassAnthoxanthum odoratum 
    • Common BentAgrostis capillaris 
    • Sheep’s FescueFestuca ovina 
    • Wavy Hair-grassDeschampsia flexuosa 
    • Yorkshire-fogHolcus lanatus 
    • Fine-leaved Sheep’s Fescue  – Festuca filiformis  
    • Velvet Bent (where damp)Agrostis canina 
    • Brown BentAgrostis vinealis 
    • Squirrel-tail FescueVulpia bromoides 
    • Early HairgrassAira praecox 
    • Silver Hair-grassAira caryophyllea 
    • Heath Grass Danthonia decumbens 

Upland hay meadows pH neutral 5 – 6.5

  • Group 1

    • Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil – Lotus corniculatus 
    • Black/common KnapweedCentaurea nigra 
    • Burnet SaxifragePimpinella saxifrage 
    • Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis 
    • Rough HawkbitLeontodon hispidus
    • Ragged RobinSilene flos-cuculi 
    • Meadow VetchlingLathyrus pratensis 
    • Autumn HawkbitScorzoneroides autumnalis (group 1 or 2)

     

  • Group 2

     

    • BugleAjuga reptans 
    • MeadowsweetFilipendula ulmaria 
    • Lady’s MantlesAlchemilla sp. 
    • Marsh MarigoldCaltha palustris 
    • SneezewortAchillea ptarmica
    • Water AvensGeum rivale 
    • Common BistortBistorta officinalis 

     

     

  • Group 2 or 3

    • EyebrightsEuphrasia officinalis agg. 
    • TormentilPotentilla erecta
    • PignutConopodium majus 
    • Saw-wortSerratula tinctorium 
    • Yellow RattleRhinanthus minor 

     

  • Group 3

     

    • Devil’s-bit ScabiousSuccisa pratensis 
    • Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa 
     

    • Wood Crane’s-bill 
    • Meloncholy ThistleCirsium heterophyllum  

     

  • All these grasses can be introduced as seed (as per Group 1)

    Grasses to introduce (if absent):

     

    • Yellow Oat-grassTrisetum flavescens
    • Smooth Meadow-grassPoa pratensis 
    • Yorkshire-fogHolcus lanatus 
    • Crested Dog’s-tailCynosurus cristatus 
    • Red FescueFestuca rubra agg. 
     

    • Common Bent – Agrostis capillaris 
    • Sweet Vernal-grassAnthoxanthum odoratum 
    • Meadow BarleyHordeum secalinum 
My Meadow Story: Making a Meadow in Rural Wales 
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How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

Creating a meadow is a really simple way to bring the local community together, whilst doing something positive for nature.

You don’t need to be an expert to start one – we’ve shared our tips for how to begin, what to plant, how to manage your green space year-round and how to engage the community.

So, what are community meadows? They are areas, predominantly of grassland, that are owned and managed by the community, such as parks, road verges, school grounds, village greens, church land or fields.

A meadow with Oxeye daisies, lush green grass and woodlands in the background

Why should you start a community meadow?

  • For the benefit of nature
  • To create an ecosystem where wildlife can flourish
  • Bring the community together
  • To bring nature into towns and cities
  • Help tackle biodiversity loss and store carbon

Read more: How to grow a wildflower meadow

Getting started

Now you’ve decided to try and start a community meadow, it’s hard to know where to begin. We’ve got plenty of experience and advice to help you along the way.

Contact your local council – Whether it’s parish, town or district council, reaching out to your local decision makers to promote wildlife-friendly management can make a big difference. Local support can really help to bring about change, whether that’s through a volunteer group or social media page. Check out our Good Meadows Guide for some convincing arguments.

Positive perceptions – Some people might be concerned that not cutting a greenspace as regularly might make it look neglected and untidy. But, framing a greenspace by cutting narrow strips around the wildflower area can offset some negative perceptions. Other concerns about plant height for road safety can be tackled by growing shorter species, which can still support an array of pollinators such as clovers, trefoils, Selfheal and Yarrow.

Communicating at every step – Telling people what and why you are creating a meadow is crucial for understanding. By bringing the community with you and working together, it will be easier to explain the benefits of meadow making. You could write something in the local magazine, talk about your meadow-making journey on social media or put up a sign.

Community activities – Bringing the community together to help create a meadow can be very beneficial. You can run activities, join campaigns or hold events to gather momentum.

  • Plantlife’s No Mow May is a great starting point to encourage the community to take part in a community meadow and see the benefits. People without their own gardens can actively get involved in helping wildlife, tackling pollution and even locking carbon beneath the ground. And those with their own green spaces can take their enthusiasm home and do #NoMowMay in their own gardens. Sign up your green space or garden here.

 

How to fund a community meadow?

If you need some help funding your community meadow, these places might be able to offer support:

  • Charity Commission – A range of charities offer funding for community meadows. You need to complete an advanced search under ‘how the charity helps’.
  • Local Supermarket Community Grants – Most supermarkets support local causes through tax on carrier bags or instore tokens such as Tesco, Asda and Co-op. 
  • Postcode Local Trust – Grants of up to £2,000 for community interest groups and voluntary organisations are up for grabs.
  • Local Community Foundations – They channel funding to local projects and will be able to advise on where to access support.
  • Local Councils – Contacting your local authority and asking them about available funding is definitely worth a shot.
  • Area’s of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks – If your meadow lies in either of these areas, it’s worth contacting your local organisation to see if there is any funding available.
  • Lottery – Small lottery grants, worth £300-£10,000 are available across the UK.

We hope that this helps you in creating a wonderful community meadow. Do let us know on social media when you have tried these methods and your progress in creating a meadow by tagging us.

Find a meadow group near you:

Are you feeling inspired, but not sure where to start? Aside from Plantlife’s guidance, a great source of  knowledge and personal support can be from meadow groups. A huge variety of groups exist across the country, who manage meadows for hay, livestock or community benefits. These groups could also be good places to start when searching for local seeds or advice.

If you would like to add your community meadow group to our list, please get in touch here.

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Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

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From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

Meadows come to life in the spring and summer, bursting with vibrant wildflowers and buzzing with insects and animals. But species-rich grassland areas, which used to occur commonly throughout Britain, are now amongst the most threatened habitats in the UK.

Approximately 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost across the UK since the 1930s. That’s why wildflowers and meadows are not only beautiful staples of the British countryside, but also crucial habitats that need restoring.

Why are meadows so amazing?

  • They are important ecosystems
  • Species-rich grasses can significantly improve carbon storage in the soil
  • They provide a brilliant habitat for bees, butterflies, birds and small mammals
  • Old grasslands can have very diverse fungal networks
  • In fact, 140 plant species can be found in a single meadow

WATCH: Not just a pretty space, this is a living space

So, the more areas that can be turned into wildflower meadows, the better things get for nature.

No matter the size of your land, the process of making a wildflower meadow is pretty much the same. Follow these steps to start your meadow-making journey:

Cut the grass

Before sowing seed, in late summer or autumn, you must cut the grass as short as possible. The cuttings must then be removed because most meadow species thrive in nutrient-poor soil with low fertility levels. Leaving the cuttings on the grass to rot down, both stifles delicate seedlings, and adds nutrients.

This can easily be done using a strimmer or mower and the cuttings removed with a rake.

Tackle any problem plants

It is really important to control any problem plants that could prevent your meadow from thriving. For example, species such as Nettle, Creeping Thistle and Dock can rapidly spread and crowd wildflowers in poorly managed meadows.

To stop this, it is best to pull these plants out by hand, cut their heads before they set seed or spot spray them. Bramble and scrub will also need to be controlled before creating a meadow.

If you have lots of problem plants, it will be easier (if possible) to try and create a meadow on another piece of land.

Create bare ground

Bare ground is simply an area that has no plants living in it. It provides germination gaps and growing space for meadow flowers and grasses. Having about 50-70% of land as bare ground will increase your chances of creating a wildflower meadow.

This can be done by hand with vigorous raking, strimming or using a rented garden scarifier.

Sow seeds

Sprinkle and gently trample in your seeds, which can be mixed with sand for easier spreading. During drier spells, water the ground if possible, but do not wash away the seeds.

Then, over the next few months pull up any Creeping Thistle and Dock or cut the flower heads off and remove before they set seed (these can spread fast and smother wildflowers).

Knowing a bit about your soil can also really help you to choose which seeds to sow. There are many factors that can influence what will grow including the soil type, fertility, location, weather, availability of light and what’s already growing there.

Don’t worry if your meadow looks a bit plain in its first year, many perennials take at least a couple of years to establish.

We hope that these tips help you in creating a wonderful meadow. Do share your meadow-making journey with us on social media by tagging us.

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Protecting Waxcaps: All the Losses We Cannot See…

Britain’s waxcap grasslands are considered to be the best in Europe. Discover the pressures these colourful fungi and their habitats face…

Wildflower meadows, a staple of the British countryside, are a buzz of activity, especially in the spring and summer. It’s not just the wildflowers and fungi that rely on their diverse vegetation, in fact, a range of wildlife can call these habitats home. By growing a meadow, you can also create a home or hunting ground for bees, butterflies, invertebrates, birds, mammals and reptiles.

Here are some of the animals you might spot in a meadow:

Invertebrates

A Flower Beetle resting on a large Oxeye Daisy, image by Pip Gray
  • Creating a meadow can really make a buzz and life in the centre can be like rush hour for insects
  • You can see everything, from ants to grasshoppers and huge armies of beetles and bugs
  • For many invertebrates, the stems, roots and leaves of meadow grasses and flowers provide food and shelter
  • The Cockchafer Beetle, commonly known as the May Bug, relies on grassy areas to lay their eggs
  • The common Bird’s-foot-Trefoil alone is a food plant for 130 different species of invertebrates

Our friends at Buglife can tell you more

Bees

Buff tailed bumblebee feeding on Knapweed
  • Pollinators, such as bees, commute to meadows every day to feast on nectar and pollen
  • Managing a meadow appropriately will increase the number of wildflowers that it supports, thus increasing the foraging habitat for bumblebees and other foragers
  • Red-tailed Bumblebees, found across the UK, rely on a plentiful supply of wild plants including dandelions and red clovers to supply them with nectar and pollen
  • If you’re in a meadow, look out for bumblebees, burrowing bees, flower bees, carder bees and honeybees
  • There are about 270 species of bee in Britain

Buzz over to the Bumblebee Trust here.

Butterflies and Moths

  • Even in a small meadow, wildflowers can be a magnet for butterflies and moths
  • When you’re planting for butterflies it’s good to have a constant procession of flowering plants throughout the summer – something that is in flower for as long as possible – ideally from March to November
  • This means local populations of butterflies and moths will not have to travel too far to find food
  • The Meadow Brown butterfly is one of the most common species found in grasslands
  • While the brightly coloured Cinnabar Moth relies entirely on one of the sunniest wildflowers – the yellow Common Ragwort. The tiger-striped caterpillars munch on the plant before pupating underground over the winter, ready to emerge as moths the next year

Flutter over to Butterfly Conservation for a bit more

Birds

  • The many insects that call meadows home also support other wildlife like swallows, skylarks and yellow wagtails
  • Goldfinches and linnets feast on the abundant seed heads
  • While lapwings, curlew and starling search the ground for insects from early autumn to spring

Fly over to the RSPB for a bit more

 

Mammals

Brown hare
  • Meadows provide a place for wild animals to forage, breed and nest – and if the grasses are tall enough, they can provide shelter
  • A large number of small mammals can call meadows home – including mice, voles and shrews
  • They also attract birds of prey to meadows, especially owls and kestrels
  • Other mammals you might spot in a meadow include moles, rabbits, hares, badgers and grazing deer
    • And we can’t forget bats – who can be seen in the summer months flying low over grassland

Meander over to the Mammal Society to find out more

Reptiles and Amphibians

  • Allowing lawns or green spaces to develop into meadows can provide a great habitat for amphibians, reptiles and their prey – unlike closely-mown lawns
  • The tall grasses and flowers (vegetation) provide these animals with cover
  • Reptiles and amphibians also prefer native plant species and minimal use of pesticides as they mainly feed on invertebrates, other amphibians and small mammals

Slither over to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to find out more

The landmark State of Nature report is a stark call to action, published by the RSPB. The headlines are alarming, with species populations in decline, species communities changing and extinction rates increasing. The report makes it clear that to protect our wildlife we need cohesion and mobilisation of all sectors of society.

Against this backdrop, and under the weight of responsibility to the environment, communities are now rallying together to ask for change. From small online actions such as signing petitions at home, to organising rallies in our capital, such as the Restore Nature Now demo organised by Chris Packham and his team in September 2023.

 

Who is speaking up for plants and fungi?

A group of protestors with banners reading 'restore nature' and 'our species need us now'

That’s what we asked ourselves when we were invited to join the Restore Nature Now rally.

Plantlife hasn’t traditionally taken much of an active stance as an organisation, but amidst the list of NGOs who would be attending, there was a stark absence of anybody to fly the flag for our flora and funga.

We recognise our own responsibility to step up for the plants and planet we love.

A group of children and adults painting banners in a room

Plantlife advocated for the need for plants and fungi to be prioritised and valued at all scales, from landscape management planning right up to government decision making.

We emphasised that our species need us now, that they are the fundamental building blocks of biodiversity, and we simply can’t afford to lose them.

We attended alongside over 40 organisations, enlisting the help of community art groups to help up visualise our mission into a banner and meeting with supporters who had responded to our call to action.

Ways you can stand up for nature

The loss of our plants and fungi is a political issue in that it affects every one of us, and is beyond party politics. Despite the central role they play in biodiversity support and carbon storage, plants and fungi are still overlooked and undervalued by decisionmakers.

Here’s some ways you can ask for change:

 

Take part in organised protests

The atmosphere at Restore Nature Now at DEFRA was exciting and energising, with talks, speeches, poems, songs and readings from scientists, artists and all kinds of empowered nature-lovers. Most organised events are inclusive, positive, safe and legal. It is awe-inspiring to hear people’s stories, hopes and visions. Look out for events shared by local groups and charities.

Spread the word

Regardless of which species or habitats we advocate for, each is interconnected and interdependent on each other. Like the formation or start of a whole new ecosystem, we need to make connections and have conversations with people beyond our organisations and groups. We need new friends and allies, people with a shared vision for change.

Support us

The money that supports us doesn’t just save wild plants through practical action for our most at-risk habitats and landscapes. It also fuels our passionate team of wild plant and fungi advocates to demand change at all levels, from local action to national governments. We can’t do this without you.

More ways to get involved…

How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower meadow landscape with a variety of species near Cardiff, Wales

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow

Whether it’s your back garden, local park, community field or lawn, wildflower meadows are amazing spaces with so much to offer.

The Wildlife in our Meadows
Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

The Wildlife in our Meadows

From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

Get lost in the miniature world of lichens and bryophytes

Did you know that there’s entire miniature kingdom, rich in hundreds of species that we can discover right on our doorsteps? Lichens and bryophytes can grow almost anywhere, from the intrepid lichens we can spot growing on our city centre pavements, to the tiny forests of mosses flourishing in woodlands.

Want to get started learning about these tiny but fascinating species? Join Lizzie Wilberforce on her journey to learn 10 moss species >

Discover winter on our reserves

Plantlife reserves aren’t just for summer! The wildflower meadows we manage, that bloom in a rainbow of colour in the summer, provide the perfect overwintering habitats for wildlife.

Our reserves team have spotted overwintering birds like Lapwing at our Lugg reserve in Herefordshire, and Snipe at Cae Blaen-dyffryn in Wales. Some of our most iconic winter species, Ivy, Holly and Mistletoe provide food for hungry birds and invertebrates at our Ranscombe and Joan’s Hill reserves.

Find your nearest reserve >

Go out and find NPMS species

The evergreen, spiny bushes of Gorse flower with a coconut perfume all year round, hence the phrase ‘when Gorse is in flower, kissing is in season’ – perhaps more relevant on our reserves home to Mistletoe! Gorse is one of our National Plant Monitoring Scheme species, a chance for volunteers to record plants which appear in designated squares across the country.

You might also spot Hart’s-tongue Fern on your woodland walks, or even Shepherd’s Purse on a school field!

Eagle-eyed plant spotters are encouraged to sign up to the NPMS scheme by picking a square here >

Leaving your lawn wild

If you took part in this years No Mow May and left an area of your lawn to grow wild year round, you’re helping nature this winter without having to lift a finger! Areas of longer grass left completely unmown from spring to autumn are home to a wider range of wildflowers, and the species that depend on them.

These long grasses left on the edge of your lawn provide valuable feeding material, shelter, and nesting sites for species such as hedgehogs, toads, butterflies and even lizards – connecting them across our landscape.

Read more tips on creating your wildest lawn yet >

More ways to enjoy plants and fungi

How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower meadow landscape with a variety of species near Cardiff, Wales

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow

Whether it’s your back garden, local park, community field or lawn, wildflower meadows are amazing spaces with so much to offer.

The Wildlife in our Meadows
Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

The Wildlife in our Meadows

From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

“Lichens are cool because they are everywhere. Once you notice them, you realise they are crazy, weird, colourful and interesting.”

Rob Hodgson started his lichen journey in lockdown as a complete beginner. Walking around Bristol one day, a lichen peaked his interest and from then on he was gripped by these secret miniature forests.

As an illustrator, Rob has created dynamic and lifelike lichen characters to help more people starting out.

We went to chat to Rob and join him on a lichen hunt.

Man looking at a tree for lichens

What’s it like as a lichen beginner?

“It was kind of my lockdown project and I just got interested one day, like what is this crazy thing. When I first started looking at lichens, you go online and there’s a million Latin names and I was just like, no this isn’t for me – I’m not a lichen expert. But once you learn the common names and you start to spot different ones, it gets easier. You don’t have to go anywhere far away, you can see these things just on the street. There’s one called chewing Chewing Gum lichen that you can see everywhere once you tune into it, just on the pavement.

Where are all these lichens?

“You do definitely notice if you go to the countryside, it’s like a lichen explosion. But I live in the centre of Bristol pretty much and there’s still lichens everywhere. On my doorstep, you see them on the pavements, you see them on walls and in my local parks there’s loads of lichens.

It’s a really good time of year to go lichen hunting [autumn/winter] and you don’t need any stuff. You can just go and as soon as you get out of the house you are on a lichen hunt – that’s as easy as it is. You just need to look on the floor, look in the tress and you’re good to go.

Let’s meet the lichen characters…

Rob Hodgson looking for lichens on a wall

How did you make the lichen characters?

“The way I work things out sometimes is through my work. When I was looking at lichens, I thought how can I make this more interesting than all of these super technical, botanical drawings. I drew one, and then once you notice one, you notice another, and then all of sudden I had drawn 20 different lichens.

There was a lot of back and forth between going out and looking at lichens and going back and modifying them.

That was where I was coming from, trying to make them fun and accessible.”

 

Rob has made beautifully designed lichen characters including dust lichen, shield lichen and oak moss. Follow him on social media here.

As I write this, I’m eating a piece of toast. As you read this, you may be eating something too. All 8.1 billion of us need food. Just like other types of consumption, such as oil and gas, our food consumption requires and releases energy. In fact, the food system is responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.

two brown cows grazing in a field

Why we’re all talking about food

It therefore makes sense that food is a central focus of the climate Conference of the Parties (CoP28) taking place at the moment in Dubai.

The CoP28 theme today is ‘Food and Agriculture’, which is a good opportunity to put down my toast and highlight some of the food and agriculture discussions at CoP28, and what they mean for wild plants and fungi.

Wild plants and fungi – not just for lunch, but for climate

We rely on wild plants and fungi for so much, however they are the overlooked centrepieces at the heart of all ecosystems.

Take grasslands: the livelihoods of around 800 million people depend on them and they cover more than 50% of the world’s land.

Imagine nomadic reindeer herders navigating the Steppes in Mongolia, or small-scale pastoralists grazing their livestock on Kenyan savannahs. Humans are part of a virtuous Venn diagram, with grasslands at the centre:

  • food is produced from the livestock
  • the livestock provide the grazing needed to maintain a balanced grassland ecosystem
  • the healthy ecosystem stores carbon and is also more resilient to the impacts of climate change
Small square hay bailer in field

But not all agriculture is equal…

It’s important to differentiate this approach to grassland management from the more intensive farming, that shatters the mutualistic relationship between people and the natural environment.

Intensive, large-scale agriculture relies on greenhouse gas-emitting synthetic fertilisers and ploughing, with tightly packed livestock damaging the sensitive flora and degrading the soil.

That’s why we’re looking to world leaders at CoP28 to recognise the value of healthy grasslands and savannahs as part of a sustainable food system, that helps boost biodiversity and tackle climate change.

We need joined-up action across governments and their policies tackling farming, food security, public health, nature & net zero.

CoP28 announcement

At CoP28, 134 countries have signed up to the United Arab Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, committing to integrate food into their climate plans by 2025.

This could be an important step towards real action to bring down emissions from global agriculture, in tandem with supporting farmers, pastoralists, and smallholders who farm in a low-carbon way.

However, alongside real action there’s also real risk – of greenwashing. We should be sceptical of subsidies that still go towards funding intensive agriculture, or untested technological solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We’ll be watching how governments put this Declaration into practice.

Food for thought

Of course, it remains to be seen whether governments will make tangible commitments to actually shift food production away from intensive agricultural practices.

Will governments stop harmful agricultural subsidies and instead pay and support less intensive farming, that helps restore swathes of degraded grassland?

Will they ignore the huge farming and fertiliser lobby to help farmers break free from costly input cycles?

Will the rights of indigenous people and local communities to their land and traditional pastoralism be respected?

We want the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of healthy grasslands to be meaningfully incorporated into countries’ climate and biodiversity strategies.  

As I finish my meal, these are the questions I will ponder ahead of CoP28’s final few days. The solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises are by no means bitesize, but I have hope, if we’re all sat together at the same table. 

Jo Riggall

How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet
Yellow flowers of Bog Asphodel among grass and other bog plants.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet

Extraction of peat for gardening and horticulture continues to damage wildlife and our climate, despite government commitments to phase it out. Plantlife is calling on governments and industry to end the use of peat in gardening and horticulture to benefit nature and our climate. 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

Thanks to its association with Christmas, and its appearance on cards and decorations, Mistletoe is probably one of our most recognised native species. This association also means that the ‘kissing plant’ is also harvested in huge volumes each year for seasonal decorations. That tradition probably derives from a long history of use in ritual, which may have started with Celtic druids.

It’s seen variously as a symbol of fertility, love, and peace across European cultures. However, the kissing tradition itself appears to have developed more recently, perhaps in the 18th century.

More about Mistletoe

But what of the plant in the wild? Although it has a widespread distribution in the UK, it is quite rare in many areas. Its greatest abundance is strongly clustered around the Welsh-English border areas.

In fact, it’s also the county flower of Herefordshire, where you can find our Joan’s Hill Farm Nature Reserve. Here, it is strongly associated with the area’s fruit orchards, although it grows on a wide range of deciduous trees such as poplars and limes as well as orchard species.

The life of a parasitic plant

Mistletoe is an ‘obligate hemi-parasite’ of the trees on which it grows: that is, it doesn’t just grow on trees as a physical host. It actually can’t survive without the biological symbiosis it has with the host tree, although it does also photosynthesise. So how does that relationship work?

Mistletoe produces seeds in white berries – itself unusual, being our only native plant with truly white berries. The seeds are spread through the landscape by birds, such as thrushes (via their droppings) and Blackcaps (which move seeds mechanically on their bodies).

Both routes allow seeds to stick to new tree hosts, where if the location is suitable, they germinate. The young emerging seedlings are photosynthetic, and so at this early stage they are not dependent on the tree.

As the seedlings grow, some shoots penetrate the bark of the tree and connect with the tissue beneath- the beginnings of the parasitic relationship. In the plant’s first year, its connections with the tree’s tissues already provide it with water and crucial mineral nutrients.

It’s only then, over the following few years, that the plant very slowly begins to grow. Mistletoe is a long-lived perennial.

How does parasitism work?

Parasitism is a form of symbiosis where one partner benefits at the expense of the other. Mistletoe thrives on account of the tree, but the reverse is not true. If a tree has a lot of Mistletoe, it can eventually affect the tree quite severely, impeding growth, and for example, making it more susceptible to drought as a result of water loss.

Parasitism has evolved multiple different times across the plant world. The largest flower in the world, Rafflesia arnoldii, is the flower of a parasite. There is a parasitic conifer, Parasitaxus usta, that grows in New Caledonia, and Hydnora africana looks like it comes from a scifi movie.

Discover more parasitic plants in the UK

In the UK we have a wealth of parasitic and hemi parasitic plants that gain nutrients directly from other plants as well as a whole bunch of plant species that rob their nutrients either fully or partially from fungi.

  • We have 21 different species of eyebright, Euprasia, in the UK. Some, like Euphrasia cambrica, (pictured) are found here and nowhere else in the world. The beauty of eyebright flowers is best viewed with a hand lens. Some eyebright species can be seen in abundance during the summer at nature reserves such as Caeau Tan y Bwlch in North Wales. Here you can find rare Euphrasia monticola alongside thousands of Greater Butterfly Orchids.
  • If you happen to be in your local supermarket carpark it is worth looking out for the newly described variety of broomrape, Orobanche minor heliophila. This variety of Orobanche minor was only recognised in the UK in 2020. This plant is only found growing with a shrub from New Zealand that is often planted in carparks called Brachyglottis × jubar ‘Sunshine’.
  • We have two species of toothwort here too – one, Lathraea squamaria, is native and associates with Hazel trees; the other, Lathraea clandestine, was introduced as a garden plant and will happily parasitise several different trees and shrubs without doing them any serious harm.
  • Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor (the meadow maker) is a hemi parasite and we use this feature in wildflower meadows to reduce the vigour of grasses and benefit the other plants. Its relative is Rhinanthus angustifolius is now very rare in the UK. Eyebrights, cow wheats, louseworts and bartsias also serve the same role as yellow rattles in meadows and woodlands.
  • We have 14 different species of broomrape many of which only associate with a single, or a very small number of, host species. Broomrapes are spectacular plants and rival many of our terrestrial orchids for beauty – it’s worth going out and trying to see some of them. The easiest ones to find are probably Ivy Broomrape or Common Broomrape
  • Possibly the most vampire-like parasitic plants we have in the UK are the dodders, Cuscuta. Three species of dodder are found here, two are native and one is introduced. When they germinate, they can ‘sniff out’ their host plant species which they then twine around before the penetrate the hosts stems to extract nutrients with haustorium – rootlike structures that absorb water or nutrients from the host.
  • Many orchids like Neottia nidus-avis, the Bird’s-nest Orchid, and heather relatives such as Monotropa hypopitys, the Dutchmans Pipe (pictured), extract all their nutrients from fungi without providing anything back to their host. This is a type of parasitism called myco-heterotrophy.

Learn more about plants

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

The Wild Leek has been a symbol of Wales for so long that its stories date back to St David himself.

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters
Small square hay bailer in field

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters

One of the most important discussions at COP28 is about – food and agriculture. Find out why they are so important for global governments.

Characterised by the presence of unique lichens, bryophytes, mosses, and liverworts, rainforest habitats are highly fragmented and face threats from invasive non-native species, such as Rhododendron ponticum, alongside ash dieback, inappropriate grazing, and air pollution. 

How governments can protect and restore this internationally-rare habitat

Temperate rainforests have some of the highest diversity and abundance of wild plants and fungi in Britain, with many sites qualifying as Important Plant Areas.

Protecting and restoring this ecosystem would speed up progress in meeting national and global targets to address the nature and climate emergencies, including the 2030 Global Biodiversity Framework. Investment in rainforest restoration would also build on past and present conservation actions, and help to build a green economy through employment, skills training and tourism. 

 

The future of Britain’s temperate rainforest and its unique species depends on targeted action by the Scottish, UK and Welsh Governments to:    

1. Establish national rainforest funds from both public and private sources to support long-term landscape-scale projects and other practical action.

a) The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest has identified the cost of restoring the temperate rainforest zone in Scotland to be £500 million.   

2. Increase protection of remaining rainforest sites and species through national strategy, policy, and legislation.  

3. Provide advice and support for land managers to enhance and restore rainforest on their land.  

4. Take urgent action to tackle key threats to rainforest including air pollution, invasive non-native species (INNS), and deer management.

a) More than 94% of the UK’s woodland is impacted by excess nitrogen deposited through air pollution and rainfall. Lichens are essential species in temperate rainforests, but they need clean air to thrive. Lichens provide food, shelter, and microhabitats for invertebrates, in addition to carbon cycling and water retention.  

b) Invasive non-native species, like Rhododendron ponticum and ash dieback currently have the potential to wipe out much of the species diversity in Britain’s temperate rainforests. Funding projects that address this, in addition to making powers of enforcement more widely known and used where necessary, give rainforests to chance to thrive.  

c) Deer are a natural part of thriving temperate rainforest areas; however, at their current population density, particularly within Scotland, their grazing prevents essential tree species from growing and this leads to a decrease in long-term regeneration of woodland areas.  

Our work

A Temperate Rainforest Strategy for England:
branches and tree covered with lichens

A Temperate Rainforest Strategy for England:

A new English government strategy for temperate rainforest has been released, but restoring the rainforest in England requires a more detailed approach that recognises and addresses the threats. To put the rainforest on the path to recovery, concrete action is needed.

Government Action for Temperate Rainforests 

Government Action for Temperate Rainforests 

Discover how Plantlife is working with governments to protect and restore temperate rainforest along the Atlantic coast of Britain.

Saving species in Devon and Cornwall’s rainforests
Wistmands Wood Building resilience rainforest

Saving species in Devon and Cornwall's rainforests

Our wild and wet woodlands and the species that live within them are facing severe threats which Plantlife will be tackling through the Species Recovery Project.