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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

I always thought that I was someone who immersed themselves in nature. The entire ethos of my work is inspired by the natural world; it’s the seeds that allow my paintings to grow. However, my life-changing trip this summer exploring IPA sites across the UK has opened my eyes. It’s shown me what truly settling into stillness and absorbing the magic of nature really is.

As part of my Artist Residency for Plantlife – and supported by Arts Council England’s Developing your Creative Practice Fund – I set off on a wildflower treasure hunt back in May to uncover rare species; many of which are currently living on the edge.

The brilliance of botanical art

I have always been fascinated by the juxtaposition of a wildflower, how its strength can rise through rubble and yet its fragility can break at the lightest of touches. A wildflower experiences birth, growth, transformation and decay, often in a thimble of time. It shows courage, hope, resilience, a contentment that is enviable.

Being amongst wildflowers I feel joy, strength, grief and an easeful glimmer of peace. With every wildflower season, I am able to experience this cycle of emotions. I am my raw, honest self, no hiding, nature welcomes you as you are, inviting you to be part of the purposeful chaos. My art helps me grow down through my layers and expand my roots.

Life on the verge

My journey started at Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve in Kent. And what a start to the trip! I pulled up in the smallest of car parks where I was met by Ben, the site manager. He was excited to show me the incredibly rare Man Orchid: a handful of this endangered species had decided to make a verge on the side of a busy road their home.

If he hadn’t pointed them out, I would have walked straight past – but the moment you notice them, you cannot look away. Milky lime yellow with stripes of burgundy and tongues like snakes; they were utterly divine.

The juxtaposition of this rare, beautiful flower with the frantic hum of traffic continuously passing by felt like a metaphor for human nature. How much do we miss out on because we’re simply too busy?

Discovering species on the edge

My visit up to Scotland was the biggest part of my trip. The colours here were like a symphony; vibrant pops against a rugged landscape. Shades of storm grey into an icy blue, merging into crystalline greens. Soft lavender and silver ribbons. All these colours merged together against the textures of the flagstone rocks and the wildlife that burst from them.

And you had to work to find the rare species among this incredible palette! At one point, I had to lean right over a cliffside to spot the tiniest deep pink Scottish Primrose; it was so small and fragile – around 5cm tall – that you had to seriously tune your eye in to find it.

But I was so glad I made the effort. The Scottish Primrose can only be found in Orkney and the northern coast of Scotland. If it disappears from these sites, it’s gone forever. Our discovery, therefore, felt enormously poignant.

Top tips for aspiring botanical artists

  • Purchase a hand lens and take it everywhere, discover micro worlds that are everywhere and observe as much as possible.
  • Make notes, voice recordings, anything that helps plant you back in your sweet spot, most of all find comfort in stillness.
  • The more peace in stillness you find, the more nature reveals to you.
  • Talk about what you do with passion, share what you learn, by doing so you will inspire others to protect nature.

Learn more about our reserves

A Day Volunteering at a Nature Reserve
person smiling

A Day Volunteering at a Nature Reserve

Find out what it's like to volunteer at one of our nature reserves. Jim Whiteford describes a day working outdoors, protecting and restoring nature in Deep Dale, Derbyshire.

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Munsary Nature Reserve’s Road to UNESCO World Heritage Site

Learn about why our Munsary Peatlands reserve is being put forward for inscription as the world’s first peatland UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A Botanical Art Journey of Plantlife’s Reserves

A Botanical Art Journey of Plantlife’s Reserves

Plantlife’s Artist in Residence, shares her summer journey across our reserves and some top tips for aspiring botanical artists.

These days it seems there is an app for everything, including finding out what creature critter or plant you are looking at. But are they useful? Are they accurate?

We tested 10 popular apps out on the field to put them through their paces, and picked 3 of our favourites. We looked at ease of use, accuracy, costs involved and what additional features they have.

flora incognita logo

Flora Incognita

Our favourite app from the ones tested, this is free to download with no intrusive adverts or other costs involved.

The aim of the Flora Incognita research project is mapping plants, therefore they record and use the location of where the plants are found.

That means using this app is not only beneficial to your learning, but also makes an important contribution to biodiviersity monitoring and research.

This app combines traditional plant identification with the latest methods of AI. To identify, simply click on the plus symbol which takes you through your options.

Ease of use 5/5
Identification skills 4/5
Range of features 4/5

Download

picture this logo

Picture This

Claiming to be ‘the botanist in your pocket’, this app uses advanced artificial intelligence and was accurate for a wide range of species, from Sea Thrift to trickier species such as Mouse-ear Hawkweed.

Advertised as £24.99 a year, you can use the app indefinitely to identify plants without paying: when you open the app you come to a pre-home screen where you click cancel.

Other benefits include the app’s ability to identify common grasses, sedges and fungi – but we recommend some caution with these due to the cryptic nature of IDing these species. Picture This also has common questions and answers for each plant, along with stories and other interesting facts such as flowering times.

Ease of use 5/5
Identification skills 4/5
Range of features 4/5

Download

inaturalist logo

iNaturalist (and Seek)

iNaturalist was created with the aims of recording your observations and sharing them with the ability to crowdsource identifications. The app is free and has a range of handy features that make uploading a breeze, including an automatic location based on the photos’ GPS tag, and the ability to record other wildlife such as insects and birds.

We found the app very accurate to a plant’s genus, a group of similar species, and sometimes even down to the specific species when multiple photos are added. This makes it the perfect tool for you to take your plant ID knowledge further with a field guide.

Seek is a simpler version of iNaturalist with an easier interface for the family. We found Seek had less accuracy in the field, so if you’re looking for something more thorough, we recommend downloading iNaturalist.

Ease of use 5/5
Identification skill 5/5
Range of features 4/5

Download

 

Tips on using your phone to identify wild plants

  • There are ways to use your phones built in search assistants, however as they’re not purpose built for plants the results aren’t as accurate, unless they are obvious looking species.
  • We strongly advise you to only use plant ID apps as training tools rather than solely for identification. You could use the app to narrow your identification to a genus, then use your favourite plant guidebook.
  • From a health and safety note, the plant apps drained our phone charge extremely quickly therefore ensure you bring a portable phone charger to contact people if required.
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person holding a plant with white flowers

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