Plant communities

© Mike Dodd

Plant communities

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.  

Species with similar soil moisture and fertility requirements tend to grow together and form recognisable plant communities. Those typical of species rich floodplain meadows are: 

Burnet floodplain meadow

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). Typical of well drained alluvial soil (see plant carousel below). 

Image of Crested dog’s tail-marsh marigold grassland
Burnet floodplain meadow (MG4) © Hilary Wallace

Crested dog’s tail-marsh marigold grassland

Where the water table is kept higher in the summer (for example on groundwater fed systems) the Cynosurus cristatus - Caltha palustris ( (MG8 of the NVC) replaces the MG4. Typical of constantly moist soil (see plant carousel below). 

Many sites will support a range of plant communities; as the topography and soil nutrient availability vary, so the plant communities will change. Our plant grid  provides more information about different plant communities and their water and nutrient requirements. 

The plant carousels below show some of the key species found in each plant community listed (MG4, MG5 and MG8).  

Crested dog's tail - common knapweed grassland (MG5; Cynosurus cristatus - Centaurea nigra)
Crested dog’s tail-marsh marigold grassland (MG8) © Hilary Wallace

The plant carousels below show some of the key species found in each plant community listed (MG4, MG5 and MG8).

  • Image of Centaurea nigra
    Common knapweed
    Centaurea nigra © Mike Dodd
  • Image of Crepis capillaris
    Smooth hawks-beard
    Crepis capillaris © Mike Dodd
  • Image of Leontodon hispidus
    Rough hawkbit
    Leontodon hispidus © Mike Dodd
  • Image of Green winged orchid
    Green winged orchid
    Anacamptis morio © Mike Dodd
  • Image of Knautia arvensis
    Field scabious
    Knautia arvensis © Mike Dodd
  • Image of Ranunculus bulbosus
    Bulbous buttercup
    Ranunculus bulbosus © Mike Dodd
  • Image of Downy oatgrass
    Downy oatgrass
    Avenula pubescens © Mike Dodd
  • Image of Eupatorium cannabinum
    Hemp agrimony
    Eupatorium cannabinum © Mike Dodd
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