This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
A New British Flora
Their soil requirements are also of a different type, striking a mean between those of very moist and of very dry conditions. Accordingly the plants included under Sections II - V are not artificially but more or less naturally grouped as here. The soil is not acid, cold, or saline, but fairly moist and well drained, not barren or containing acid humus. These plants range over the Temperate Zones. Generally speaking, a large number are perennials.
The meadow community consists largely of grasses, rushes, sedges, and "herbs" generally. Such communities are in a sense artificial, having been derived from primeval forest lands, since enclosed and cultivated, with lines of hedges, ditches, and artificially-disposed trees. A few meadows only on hills and near water may be still aboriginal.
This type consists of wide expanses of grass land, variegated with other herbaceous perennials, in which, of course, though not here shown, grasses predominate. It is much more exposed to frost than woodlands, as are all other wide lowland types of communities.
Nearly all the plants are perennials, and only a few are annual. A few have creeping underground stems, which contribute to the expansive character of the vegetation, but most are caespitose or tufted.
Certain types of meadow flora may be characterized by their relative lowland or upland character, depending on relative porosity or humidity, such as (a) that in which Smooth Meadow Grass (Poa pratensis) prevails, (b) Rough Meadow Grass (P. trivialis), (c) Heath Hair Grass (Deschampsia flexttosa), also an upland type. Where Carnation Sedge (Carex panicea) and Purple Moor Grass (Molinia coerulea) grow the habitat is a wet upland meadow, and a marshy meadow is characterized by the dominance of Meadow Fescue (Festuca elatior).
Amongst these Pascual or Pratal (i.e. meadow) species, of which there are about 120, are some twenty which are addicted to a limy soil. We include here about twenty-nine. Out in the meadows stands the tall meadow Crowfoot, waving its bitter graceful stems in the wind, and usually discarded by the cattle. In the shade of the ditch banks, or on wet clay banks, the golden-hued Lesser Celandine carpets the ground with regal splendour. Lady's Smock, with its delicate lilac-tinted blooms, studs the moist meadows by the streamside. So too the lilac-flowered Dame's Violet, scenting the night breeze, lurks in the cool shade of paddocks and covert sides. Ragged Robin makes gay marshy meadows in hill and dale with its fine, pink, tassel-like blooms, amongst sedges, rushes, and arrow grass. Down by the trout stream, like some fine garden flower, sheltered by protective foliage finely and delicately cut, the deep-blue orbs of the Meadow Crane's Bill reflect in floral emblem the Italian skies. The Humble and the Hive Bee seek the "honeysuckles" of red and white clovers in the meadows, humming, yet busy all the while. Over these one hears the lark carolling sweet melody in the clear fresh skies of early summer and spring. Where the meadows roll into uplands and make rambling ramparts carved by Nature's hands rise the lemon-tinted clusters of Hop Trefoil, giving a touch of gold to the eternal green of the meadows.
"Bacon and Eggs", or the yellow and golden flowers of Bird's-foot Trefoil, clustered up and down on the little undulating knolls, give too a richer hue to the verdant emerald sea." Queen of the meadows", the filmy gauze-like heads of Meadowsweet, rise gracefully from the waterside or the ditch. Trailing over the ridges in the shires or on banks on the uplands the Cinquefoil scrambles over the scrubby grass, lending a new shapeliness to the outlines of the meadow lands with their stereotyped fascicles of short-stemmed grasses.
Hidden amongst the hillsides in choice spots the sparkling orbs on the Dewcup give the brilliance of diamonds to the common upland flowers. The Great Burnet towers with its graceful dark-brown flower-heads amongst the shorter herbage, ever and anon swaying with the rhythm of the breeze. On the higher slopes the nest-like clusters of white bloom varied with pink of the Wild Carrot, are scattered commonly where the Devils-bit Scabious rears its heliotrope head in the meadows laid to hay, while on the lawn and in the fields the lowly Daisy preaches eternally a sermon in mute obeisance, with all nature spread out as a book, "which he who runs may read".
Photo. L. R. J. Horn - General View Of A Meadow
Yarrow and Ox-eye Daisy, common but beautiful, make up many a posy in the boy or girl schooldays. Knapweed, busby-like in flower, the golden Dandelion, with its old-world "clocks", the early-blooming Goat's-beard, Cowslips that reek of anise, the quaking, shivering Yellow Rattle, purple Self-heal, the dainty purple and spotted orchids, and the Purple Crocus are all found here.