Grassland and Heathland

Grassland

Most grassland in Britain has been changed by human activity. The underlying geology reflects the mix of flowers and grasses growing and the way the grassland is managed using animal grazing will affect the range of species supported. Grasslands can be home to a diversity of moths and butterflies, many of which are threatened nationally. Scattered scrub provides shelter and food plants and supports a range of other insects. Much of our lowland heathland has been lost and the areas that remain are home to a number of  endangered species. Good heathland will consist of heather of varying ages within areas of grassland, bracken and scrub.

Chalk and Limestone Grassland

Key features:

  • Semi-natural grasslands on calcareous soils and limestone pavement
  • Thin, dry and nutrient-poor soils
  • Wide variety of alkaline tolerant plants including many caterpillar food plants such as Common Birds-foot-trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Cowslip, Common Rock-rose and grasses
  • Warm south-facing slopes
  • Scrub patches to provide shelter and structural variation

Characteristic butterflies: Small Skipper, Lulworth Skipper, Silver-spotted Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Green Hairstreak, Small Blue, Brown Argus, Northern Brown Argus, Common Blue, Chalkhill Blue, Adonis Blue, Duke of Burgundy, Dark Green Fritillary, Marsh Fritillary, Wall, Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Small Heath.

Characteristic moths: Forester, Six-belted Clearwing, Six-spot Burnet, Chalk Carpet, Straw Belle, Narrow Bordered Bee Hawk-moth, Cinabar, Mother Shipton, Light Feathered Rustic, Reddish Light Arches, Least Minor

Damp Grassland and Meadows

Key features:

  • Semi-natural grasslands on moist soils
  • Larval food plants such as Cuckooflower, Devil’s-bit Scabious, Marsh Violet, Greater Bird's-foot-trefoil and grasses
  • Height and structure of sward including some scrub

Characteristic butterflies: Small Skipper, Green-veined White, Orange-tip, Common Blue, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Marsh Fritillary, Ringlet.

Characteristic moths: Forester, Five-spot Burnet, Narrow Bordered Bee Hawk-moth, Dingy Mocha, Double Line, Small Dotted Buff

Acidic Grassland and Bracken/grass mixtures

Key Features:

  • Semi-natural grasslands on acidic soils
  • Presence of warm, dead bracken litter
  • Presence of warm, south-facing slopes
  • Presence of scrub patches
  • Larval food plants such as Common Dog-violet, sorrels and grasses

Characteristic butterflies: Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, High Brown Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary  

Characteristic moths: Gold Swift, Brown Silver-line, Silver Hook, Drinker, Small Argent & sble, Slender Striped Rufous

Lowland Heathland

Key features:

  • Warm, dry soils with bare patches and areas of wet heathland
  • Occassional scrub such as sallow and birch
  • Larval food plants such as heathers and fine grasses

Characteristic butterflies: Green Hairstreak, Small Copper, Silver-studded Blue, Grayling, Small Heath

Characteristic moths: Dingy Mocha

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