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.
The term waste ground or waste places is capable of more than one meaning. There are comparatively natural types of waste land, which, although following the destruction of forest lands originally, may be in their present stage untouched by man. But these types are hardly, if at all, represented in this country; and to all intents and purposes waste places denote pieces of ground that are associated with cultivation.
The waste places, as implied by the Latin names of many of the plants that are found there - e.g. arvensis, found on ploughed land; agrestis, cultivated land; sativus, segetum, sown - are characterized by their association with the plough or the harrow, etc. Watson called plants of cultivated ground agrestal, including Papaver, Agrostemma, Bromus secalinus, Veronica agrestis; but these are more especially cornfield weeds. They share the same character, however, in growing upon open ground that is liable to be broken up and disturbed, and from which close-growing, spreading, and tenacious types, such as Grasses and other meadow plants, are continually being ousted.
The plants thus have to compete with less severe conditions, and their struggle for existence is far less arduous. Waste ground possesses the same character, being open and frequently new ground, upon which may appear in their proper rotation algae, mosses, and flowering plants, or the latter may predominate.
It is natural that the relative openness of such stations may differ considerably, for if once allowed to return to a more natural and permanent condition the alien types disappear, and Grasses, etc., take their place; and the persistence of particular types in spite of this is a mere matter of adaptiveness, which some plants possess in a remarkable degree.
The name Chersophytes is given to plants that grow in regions where there is a sufficiently moist climate to admit the existence of forest land or scrub, and on which, after this has been destroyed on dry soils, perennial dry-soil types may grow. They, however, are not steppe plants, though they may resemble them. In the eastern counties, which like the rest of the country were subjected to steppe conditions following glacial conditions, certain plants that may be regarded as steppe plants occur. And steppe conditions are akin to desert conditions, which are similar in the character of the habitat to sand-dune formations, widely represented along the British coasts, both types of formation (included together as Eremophytes) being dry-soil types. The Grape Hyacinth (Muscari racemosum) is a steppe plant.
The longer vegetative period and greater degree of humidity of chersophytic vegetation distinguish it from the steppe formation, and the bulbous and tuberous plants of the steppe are absent.
A type of meadow in the Alps is characterized by the dominance of Festuca vallesiaca and Koeleria vallesiaca. This last has recently been recognized in this country. It also includes Poa bulbosa. The Brome meadow on the Alps is dominated by Bromus erectus, common on certain dry calcareous pastures in this country also, and with it also grow Galium Mollugo, Festuca rubra, F. ovina, F. pratensis, Carex verna, Prunella vulgaris, Salvia pratensis, etc. These occur in similar situations in this country.
Bushland or thorn bushland on dry soil consists of Barberry, Hawthorn, Rose, Bramble, or Juniper, and in Scotland of Gorse. This is due to destruction of forest in humid areas on dry soils. The affinity of this natural waste ground to waste places in the ordinary sense is clear. Fern heath with Gorse occurs in the south of England. These formations agree in the dry character of the soil and modified surface features.