Lowland calcareous grassland typically has short and open turf with well-drained conditions and a sunny climate. This makes it a great habitat for invertebrates and there are hundreds of rare and scarce species associated with this habitat.
Scrub is typically present in lowland calcareous grassland and includes lime-loving species such as guelder rose (Viburnum opulus), dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and burnet rose (Rosa Pimpinellifolia) in addition to hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)and blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and occasionally juniper (Juniperus).
The scrubby grassland margin supports species not found on open grassland, for example common calamint and the great green bush-cricket.
What to look out for on lowland calcareous grassland:
Look for bees, ants, hoverflies, beetles and grasshoppers (including rufous and striped-winged). On sunny days with little wind, clouds of butterflies can still be seen on some of the best sites, including chalkhill, small and Adonis blues. Check also for silver-spotted skipper, Duke of Burgundy, marsh fritillary and Lulworth skipper on sites where these are still known to occur. More common species include dingy skipper, brown argus and, in longer swards, marbled white and meadow brown.
At night-time, look out for glow-worms and for bats feeding on the rich supply of invertebrates.
Glorious Woodlands work with the Wildlife Trusts to make sure we choose the right plants to encourage the right fauna.
Lowland dry acid grassland:
Often found on acidic sandy soils. In addition to fine grasses, lichens and mosses, species on lowland dry acid grassland include small rosette-forming species such as cat’s-ear and mouse-ear hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum), low-growing herbs such as sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and bird’s-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), and tiny annuals such as common stork’s-bill (Erodium cicutarium), changing forget-me-not (Myosotis discolor), and parsley piert (Aphanes).
The vegetation varies with climate and a less diverse form is found in more moist upland fringes and in south-west England, while in Scotland it can be found on stable river shingle.
What to look for on lowland dry acid grassland:
Sandy soils on particularly open and parched acid grassland can support a range of ground dwelling and burrowing insects.
Here is a nice description from the Wildlife Trust: The impressive black and brown field cricket (lost from all but one site before being subsequently reintroduced to others within its former range) remains rare, but look out for mining bees and wasps, particularly on warm, south facing banks, and for butterflies such as grayling, green hairstreak and small heath.
The enigmatic stone curlew is associated with lowland dry acid grassland and is best seen at publicised reserves, for example in Breckland. Woodlarks are also attracted to the short sparse turf where they prey on invertebrates, particularly if there is taller grass or heather nearby for nesting – listen out for their fluid, spiralling song from early spring. Adders like deep cover and can be found on the heathy margins of acid grassland.
Upland acid grassland and rush pasture:
Upland rush pasture is often found between the lower limit of upland acid grassland and the enclosed pastures or hay meadows found in flat valley bottoms. Where the soils remain damp year-round, moisture-loving rushes are abundant. Grasses growing among and around the rushes typically include Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus),sweet vernal-grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum), creeping bent(Agrostis stolonifera) and red fescue (Festuca rubra), with a few herbs such as marsh bedstraw (Galium palustre) and creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens).
What to look for on upland rush pasture:
Damp, flushed areas tend to be most diverse, supporting a variety of sedges, globeflower and grass-of-parnassus. In autumn keep an eye open for small, colourful waxcap fungi in shorter swards. In rush pasture in particular, listen out for the calls of a suite of characteristic waders, though their populations are now sparse. Overhead, you may catch sight of buzzard and merlin, while black grouse can be found where there is heathland nearby.