Thanks to Andrew for this article and wading around his fields to take some photos:
If you were at the Spring Meeting at Bancyfelin on 24th March you will have heard Richard Pryce’s talk on indicator species for various types of grassland. Now spring is actually happening (quite a bit later than last year) I’ve had a look at what’s appearing in our two meadows and taken a few photos.
One (top field) is now in its 5th year of management as a hay meadow, and the other (middle field – such inspired names) is in its 3rd year. And exactly as Richard said in his talk, different plants are becoming more or less frequent as the meadows develop over time. When we decided to make middle field into another meadow, we scattered some yellow rattle seed that we’d collected from top field – this was in autumn 2015. In summer 2016 there were a few separate patches of yellow rattle, it was rather more widespread last summer, but now as the photo shows, it is ubiquitous and incredibly dense. This is exactly what happened a couple of years earlier in top field, and we thought “What have we done?”, as it looked like a virtual monoculture. But we now know from what’s happened in top field, as Richard pointed out, that after this peak it becomes less dominant, not only in terms of plant density but also plant size/vigour. Last summer, the yellow rattle plants in top field were noticably smaller than the ones in middle field, presumably because the middle field ones are getting more nutrient from the grasses which they have only been parasitising for half the time. There is still yellow rattle in the top field, but much less than in previous years.
(first showing of rattle seedlings)
If you manage the field for hay/haylage as we do, and you cut it after all the yellow rattle has died back (it’s an annual) the grass recovers and you still get a reasonable amount of hay – though we are happy to increase the diversity of the field at the expense of yield which was the whole point of sowing yellow rattle in the first place (we collected the seed we sowed in top field from field belonging to friends of ours 2 miles away).
In top field, there is now much more ribwort plantain than there used to be, and as Richard said, this seems to get more frequent and peak at a later stage in the meadow’s history than yellow rattle.
Both fields have cat’s ear (apart from dandelion this is the only yellow asteraceae so far).
(cat’s ear – and more rattle)
We can just about make out some greater birdsfoot trefoil in the top field (there’s plenty most years but it’s still tiny at present), and in a wet part of middle field, what we think is some lesser spearwort, but we need to wait for it to flower to be sure.
(greater birdsfoot trefoil)
(lesser spearwort – probably)
Also in (or rather on the boundary of) the middle field are some bluebells
We had no idea they were there until we did the hedge laying that we described in a previous post:
There are of course loads of other seedings which we aren’t competent to identify, we’ll try when they’re a bit bigger. We had the great advantage of having the WWBIC (West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre) recorders survey our place last summer, including Richard and Kath who are the county’s botanical recorders, so we have a detailed list of what was found there – it makes it a lot easier to decide what it is you’re looking at.
Thanks for reading.