Skip to content

Seven things to spot in a summer meadow

Written by
Matthew OatesSpecialist volunteer, butterflies, National Trust
Common spotted orchid seen at Collard Hill in Somerset
Common spotted orchid | © National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

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.

Insect spotting

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.

Grasshopper in the meadow at Nuffield Place, Oxfordshire
Grasshopper in the meadow at Nuffield Place, Oxfordshire | © National Trust Images/Alex Prain

Butterflies to look out for

Marbled white

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.

Meadow brown

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.

Marbled white butterfly on thistle at Parkhill Camp Wiltshire
Marbled white butterfly on thistle | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Burnet moths

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.

You might also be interested in

Red squirrel sitting on a mossy rock eating a nut

Red squirrel spotting tips 

Find out how to spot red squirrels, the best times to see them and how to tell them apart from grey squirrels.

Young grey seals on the beach at Horsey, Norfolk

Seal-spotting guidance 

Take a look at our guidelines for responsible seal spotting and top tips for seal watching.

A robin is seen sitting on a holly branch in autumn

Five things you never knew about holly 

Discover the rich history of holly, one of Britain's favourite festive plants that has its roots in pagan culture.

Making a pinecone bird feeder

How to make a bird feeder 

If you’d like to see more birds in your outdoor space, discover how you can make a simple bird feeder with just a few items and ingredients.