Wildflowers and Insects at Hatfield Forest

At last count there were an estimated 300 million flowers at our special place. Learn about the habitats they help create and the insects they encourage.

Beetles, fungi, mistletoe, buttercups...

The Forest is a "triple S I" (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and a National Nature Reserve. The coppices and woodland pasture are now extremely rare, providing a refuge for much rare and specialised wildlife, including beetles and fungi, wildflowers and other insects. Hatfield Forest is renowned for its mistletoe.  In late May, there are fantastic displays of buttercups. At last count there were an estimated 300 million flowers.

Wildflowers and where to find them

Hound’s-tongue – edges of the wood pasture all over the Forest
Brooklime – in the wet areas by the stream and marsh
Fleabane – in the wet areas by the stream and marsh
Burnet Saxifrage - Portingbury Hills
Restharrow – Takeley Hill
Dwarf Thistle - Takeley Hill
Corn Mint – Collins Coppice
Cowslip – Bush End
Cuckoo Flower – Old Womans Weaver
Fairy Flax – Takeley Hill and Portingbury Hills
Harebell - Gravelpit
Hemp Agrimony – Lake marsh

Wall Wood, to the south-west of the main Forest, is well worth a visit in Spring, to see bluebells, hedge woundwort, twayblade, common spotted orchid, and if you're lucky, some of the rare oxlips.

Butterflies

Many species of butterfly can be seen around the grasses and wildflowers of the Forest. They include speckled wood, common blue, comma, ringlet, purple hairstreak and small tortoiseshell. A recent arrival is the beautiful silver-washed fritillary.
 

We have been carrying out butterfly surveys since 2005. Our volunteers learn to identify the different species.  They familiarise themselves with the survey routes and walk these every week (weather-permitting), recording what they see.

Beetles

Many nationally rare species of beetle have been discovered at Hatfield Forest. The veteran trees and fallen wood support large numbers of saproxylic beetles (deadwood beetles), including lesser stag, rhinoceros and longhorn beetles.
 
Hatfield Forest is in the top 10 sites in England for the rarity and importance of this group of beetles.
 
The wetland and lake areas also support a diversity of species and are especially important habitats for insects in this part of Essex. 
 

Dragonflies

Dragonflies are a common sight, skimming across the lake on warm summer days. One of the larger species to be found here is the emperor dragonfly. Also common here are the southern hawker and other smaller damselflies.
 

How many wildlife species are there?


Over 4000 species of wildlife have been recorded at Hatfield Forest and 60% of these are insect species. The Forest is also home to over 650 fungus species and 320 types of wildflowers.


Visit the National Biodiversity Network website where we have placed all of our species records for the Forest, such as the plants, fungi, insects, mammals and birds.