Seven things to spot in a summer meadow
Meadows in the UK remain home to a rich tapestry of wildlife, even though 97 per cent of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s. Matthew Oates, the National Trust’s specialist butterfly volunteer and nature expert, shares seven wonderful things to look out for in meadows, along with a handy guide to identifying wildflowers.
A courting couple
Every year is a new summer of love for Britain’s insects. One meadowland discovery to look out for is two mating insects perched on a leaf and locked together in a long embrace.
A walk through English grasslands on a warm day is often accompanied by the chirrup of a grasshopper. Follow the sound and you might find a meadow grasshopper hanging from a stalk, but you’ll need to look more carefully for its silent cousin, the common green. This grasshopper can be green to olive brown with white lines on the head, whilst the meadow grasshopper is usually green with a brown stripe down the back, although sometimes brown or plum in colour.
Butterflies to look out for
The relatively common marbled white butterfly is unmistakable with its striking black and white mosaic patterned wings that clearly distinguish it from other species. It can be found in large colonies across western Britain.
Another species to look out for is the meadow brown butterfly which is often seen in large groups. Its wings are a dull, orangey brown colour with a black eyespot on the wingtips. Interestingly, it even flies on gloomier days when other butterflies don’t.
You can find several different species of these day-flying moths in meadows, and they’re all a vivid red and black colour with narrow wings and fat bodies.
Common spotted orchid
This delicate wildflower spreads in drifts across meadowland. Common spotted orchids are usually no more than 15cm high and the most common colours are whites and pinks. Crouch down to take a closer look at their beautiful blotchy leaves.
Common knapweed has an almost thistle-like purple-pink flower. It’s a favourite of many different butterflies including the marbled white and meadow brown. Its slightly rarer cousin, the greater knapweed, has even taller purple-pink flowers and is also popular with many species of butterfly.
A guide to spotting wildflowers
Wildflowers bring vibrant colour to meadows, grasslands and verges, and play a vital role in supporting bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Download this handy guide that will help you identify the flowers you see when you're out in the countryside.
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