Eight things to spot in a summer meadow

Summer meadow flowers with a bright blue sky

Our meadows are home to a rich tapestry of wildlife. But today only 2% of the meadows that existed in the 1930s remain. We care for meadows up and down the country, providing places for rare wildlife to thrive. Our nature expert Matthew Oates shares eight wonderful things to look out for in a meadow

Courting couple: two Marbled White butterflies mating
Marbled White butterflies mating

1.    A courting couple

Every year is a new summer of love for Britain’s insects. One quintessential meadowland discovery to spot is two mating insects perched on a leaf and locked together in a long embrace. 

This Common Spotted Orchid flowers in May to June
Common Spotted Orchid on Lavenham to Long Melford Railway walk

2.    Common spotted orchid

This delicate wild flower spreads in drifts across meadowland. Common spotted orchids are usually no more than 15 cm high. The most common colours are whites and pinks. Crouch down and take a closer look at their beautiful ‘blotchy’ leaves.

A Marbled White butterfly at Stonehenge
A Marbled White butterfly at Stonehenge

3.    Marbled White butterfly

This relatively common butterfly is unmistakable. Its striking black and white mosaic patterned wings clearly distinguish it from other species. It can be found in quite large colonies across western Britain.

Meadow brown butterfly
Meadow brown butterfly (female)

4.    Meadow Brown butterfly

This is the archetypal meadowland butterfly and 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.

Grasshoppers are often prey for wasp spiders
A close-up of a common field grasshopper

5.    Meadow Grasshopper and Common Green Grasshopper

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. Both come in various colours.  

Burnet moth feasts on thistle nectar
Burnet moth with distinctive red spots feasting on thistle nectar

6.    Burnet moths

You can find several different species of these day-flying moths in our meadows. They are all a vivid red and black colour with narrow wings and fat bodies.  

Greater Knapweed is one of the many wild flowers on the Knavocks
Greater Knapweed flowering

7.    Greater Knapweed

A slightly rarer cousin of the Common Knapweed. It has even taller, purple-pink flowers. Also very popular with many species of butterfly.

Knapweed on the White Cliffs of Dover
A purple flowered plant called Knapweed

8.    Common Knapweed

This common meadowland plant has an almost thistle-like, purple-pink flower. It is a favourite of many different butterflies including the Marbled White and Meadow Brown.