Grassland: Selecting indicators of success for grassland enhancement (TIN050)

Other species listed as indicators cannot be confidently assigned to one of these groups


A lack of data means the other species listed as indicators cannot be confidently assigned to one of these groups. They are listed below and tentatively assigned to a group based on consideration of their habitat preferences.

Many of the species in groups 2 and 3 require open, well-drained, nutrient poor soils and though they might colonise bare sites quite well they will be poor competitors that will disappear if such open conditions are not maintained.

  • Autumn hawkbit (N, 1 or 2)
  • Bell heather (A, on dry well-drained sites and also on leached limestone heath, 2)
  • Bilberry (A, dry well-drained sites, it rarely regenerates from seed, 3)
  • Biting stonecrop (A, but also on base-rich soils the key being extremely poor skeletal soils with little disturbance, 2 or 3)
  • Bloody cranes-bill (C, very localised on base-rich soils but often established as a garden escape, 1 or 2)
  • Blue fleabane (A, occurs mainly on very thin open well-drained calcareous and neutral substrates and would not compete in an a closed sward, 3)
  • Buck's-horn plantain (A, but also on neutral and base-rich sandy poor well-drained soils all round the coast and localised inland. Colonises salted verges. 2 or 3)
  • Bugle (N, usually on damp neutral or acidic soils, 2)
  • Carline thistle (C, on warm often south-facing thin well drained calcareous substrates, 2)
  • Common bird's-foot (A, annual of bare sandy acidic soils that can colonise suitable new sites quite quickly but will only persist in very short or open turf, 2)
  • Cuckooflower or lady's-smock (N, damper soils, it is unlikely to be spread in hay but management to allow small amounts to spread from existing plants is an option)
  • Common bistort (N, base-poor damp sites with northern bias to distribution and often in hay meadows, 2)
  • Common centaury (A, but also on calcareous soils, the key being open well-drained poor soils, 2)
  • Common meadow-rue (N, localised on damp lowland sites with base rich water that will do best when allowed to reach its full size e.g. with a late hay cut, typical of some MG4 grasslands, 2)
  • Common stork's-bill (A, annual of sandy open substrates on calcareous as well as acidic sites that will tolerate trampling but not compete in a closed sward, 2)
  • Dyer's greenweed (N, often on heavy clays and characteristic of old grassland, presumed to be a poor colonist, 3)
  • Eyebright species (N, C, this covers a group of species with a range of requirements from calcareous grassland to acidic heathland. All are annuals and, like yellow-rattle, are hemiparasites, but they seem less good at colonising new sites, 2 or 3)
  • Gentian species (C, this category is also broad and in theory could cover more than one genus though the only widespread species are Gentianella gentians that occur mainly on calcareous grassland, autumn and English gentians in the South - and on mildly acidic hill pasture in the north - field gentian. The last is in sharp decline. 2 or 3)
  • Goat's-beard (N, often in disturbed habitats but can thrive in hay meadows, 1 or 2)
  • Heath speedwell (A, on dry acidic or heathy grassland and often associated with ant hills so likely to be quite fussy, 3)
  • Hoary rock-rose (C, very rare and localised - introduction to new sites unlikely to be appropriate)
  • Lady's-mantles (N, a complex of species, only three of them moderately widespread but characteristic of upland hay meadows where introduction with green hay quite likely to be undertaken, 2)
  • Lousewort (A, on damp flushed acidic often upland sites, 2 or 3)
  • Maiden pink (A, a rare species usually on base-rich soils and sometimes metal-rich spoil, unlikely to be appropriate for introduction to new sites)
  • Marsh bedstraw (N, common species of wet meadows and ditches that produces abundant large seeds, 1 or 2)
  • Marsh-marigold (N, characteristic of some winter-wet meadows and pastures and NVC community MG8, 2)
  • Marsh valerian (N, a species of base-rich flushes and mires, 3)
  • Meadow thistle (N, localised on damp lowland sites with base rich water)
  • Milkwort species (N, C, A, the two commonest species are heath milkwort, on heathy acidic grassland, and common milkwort on calcareous to base-rich neutral grassland. 2 or 3)
  • Mouse-ear hawkweed (C, A, grows in dry well drained grassland usually in short turf on a range of soils, 2)
  • Narrow-leaved water-dropwort (N, localised species of damp grassland flooded by base-rich water in winter and often managed for hay. Some sources suggest it is easily eliminated by moderate agricultural improvement but it has been seen in semi-improved situations, 2)
  • Orchids (N, C, too wide a range of species to generalise about their requirements, some can be good colonists if conditions are suitable)
  • Parsley-piert (A, it is the slender parsley-piert Aphanes australis that occurs on acidic substrates, it grows on very open well drained skeletal soils and would only persist in short or open turf).
  • Purple milk-vetch (C, A, very localised on chalk and limestone in England so perhaps unlikely to introduced to new sites)
  • Saw-wort (N, C, A, occurs on a range of soil types but in good quality old grassland, 2 or 3)
  • Shepherd's-cress (A, a winter annual of acidic open well drained sites, rather localised and unlikely to be introduced to new sites, 3)
  • Sneezewort (N, on damp soils, it can also tolerate acidic or more base-rich conditions, 2)
  • Squinancywort (C, mainly in the south on old species-rich calcareous grassland, 2 or 3)
  • Dwarf thistle (C, shortish turf on warm calcareous grasslands in the south, 1 or 2)
  • Thyme-leaved sandwort (C, annual on open often base-rich soils that would not compete in a closed sward but might well colonise open sites, 2)
  • Tormentil (N, A, 2)
  • Violets (A, several violet species are native and some such as hairy violet are confined to calcareous soils, common dog-violet and heath dog-violet are most likely on acidic soils and the former in particular produces prolific seed, 2)
  • Water avens (N, often in damp hay meadows, much commoner in the north, 2)
  • Water mint (N, wet flushes in grassland and ditch sides, 1 or 2)
  • Wild basil (C, calcareous grassland including coarse scrubby sites, much commoner in the south, 2)
  • Marjoram (C, calcareous grassland it is known to colonise open bare calcareous substrates, 1 or 2)
  • Wild strawberry (A, prefers base-rich conditions, unlikely to be deliberately sown on acidic sites)
  • Wood anemone (N, A, seems to be a slow or poor colonist of woodland and confined to old grasslands, 3)
  • Wood sage (A, on dry acidic to mildly base-rich soils on very poor soils, 2 or 3)
  • Yellow-wort (C, calcareous grassland and quite a good colonist of open calcareous substrates, though not very competitive, 2).
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