Natural species-rich grasslands will support a high number
of different species of flowers and plants. These in turn support
a host of associated butterflies, beetles and other invertebrates,
all of which provides food for birds and mammals. Limestone
areas with thin soils, such as on steeper slopes, can have
a very characteristic rich flora including such striking plants
as rock rose and a range of orchids.
Hawthorn and other scrub in grasslands, when kept under control,
provides nesting and feeding sites for birds and essential
feeding and over-wintering sites for a wide range of invertebrates.
Where soils are deeper, a more lush flora will develop with
plants such as betony and great burnet. Butterflies and day
flying moths are often very abundant in such areas. The flower
rich nature of these habitats is best managed by regulated
grazing by sheep or cattle in late summer or where the ground
is more level it may be taken as a traditional summer hay crop.
This management is essential to prevent the finer grasses and
flowers being swamped out by the vigorous growth. The richness
of these areas can be readily destroyed by the application
of artificial fertilisers or slurry or by ploughing and re-seeding.
summer grassland flowers.
A voles eye view of a traditional hay meadow.