Plant communities

North Meadow, Cricklade
The plant communities can be seen to change as the hydrological gradient changes.

The flowers and grasses found in meadows can tell you a lot about the site history, management, type and fertility of soil and levels of water on the site. For example, at North Meadow, Crickdale (photo), the plant communities can be seen to change as the hydrological gradient changes.

Species with similar soil moisture and fertility requirements tend to grow together and form recognisable plant communities. The most typical community of moist, but not waterlogged, soils on floodplains is Sanguisorba officinalis - Alopecurus pratensis (great burnet-meadow foxtail) grassland (MG4 of the National Vegetation Classification (NVC; Rodwell, 1992). Where the water table is kept higher in the summer (for example on groundwater fed systems) the Cynosurus cristatus - Caltha palustris (crested dog’s tail-marsh marigold) grassland (MG8 of the NVC) replaces the MG4 whilst on more freely drained soils, MG5; Cynosurus cristatus - Centaurea nigra (crested dog’s tail-common knapweed) grassland replaces the MG4. Many sites will support a range of plant communities; as the topography and soil nutrient availability vary, so the plant communities will change.

Click on our plant grid to find out more about different plant communities and their water and nutrient requirements.

Clarifying the crested dog's tail - marsh marigold (MG8) floodplain meadow plant community and further defining the great burnet (MG4) floodplain meadow plant community

Thanks in part to funding from the Environment Agency, The Floodplain Meadows Partnership has been carrying out a project to more clearly define the wetter plant community known as the Cynosurus cristatus - Caltha palustris (crested dog’s tail-marsh marigold) grassland (MG8 of the NVC). You can find out more information about why this was done, and what sites we looked at here. This project has now been completed and a workshop held to share the findings and gain consensus on amendments to the existing NVC. The two presentations from the workshop outlining the proposed changes can be found below:

Revisions to the Burnet floodplain meadow (MG4) community

Revisions to the Kingcup Meadow (MG8) community (the Calthion)