Wildflowers and Insects at Hatfield Forest

Buttercups in May in a meadow at Takeley Hill at Hatfield Forest, Essex.

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 Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve. The coppices and 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.

Woodland plants and where to find them

Meadow Foxtail - Gravelpit Coppice
Pyramidal Orchid - Takeley Hill
Wild Angelica - The Marsh
Dwarf Thistle - Gravelpit Coppice
Wild Strawberry - Spittlemore Coppice
Houndstongue - Bush End North
Common Mallow - Takeley Hill
Field Woodrush - The Marsh
Primrose - Wall Wood
Meadow Buttercup - Portingbury Hills


Many species of butterfly can be seen around the wildflowers of the Forest. They include the woodland loving white admiral, painted lady, large tortoiseshell, Essex skipper and purple emperor.
We have been carrying out butterfly surveys since 2005. Our volunteers learn to identify the different species and familiarise themselves with the survey routes. They walk these routes every day (weather-permitting) and record what they see. A recent arrival is the beautiful silver-washed fritillary.


Some rare types of beetle can be found at Hatfield Forest. Large groups of saproxylic beetles (deadwood beetles) can be seen on fallen trees around the Forest, including: stag, rhinoceros and lesser stage beetles.
Beetles are one of the many invertebrate species we monitor in the Forest.  We have a number of "Red Data Book" species which are internationally rare or endangered. By tracking changes in their numbers we can identify the effects of changes in climate, pollution and habitat robustness.


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?

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.