The UK's summer wildlife spectaculars

Wildflower meadow

Bright colours, seductive scents, immersive sounds and full of life.

No wonder our wildflower-rich, traditionally managed meadows and pastures have been such an inspiration for artists, ramblers and picnickers for generations.

Simply bursting with colour, buzzing with insects and alive with animals. A wildflower meadow can only be described as one of our summer spectaculars.

If you like what you see then why not create one in a garden (see Been inspired? section below) and tell us about it at the bottom of the page.

Bursting with colour

All the beautiful wildflowers in the gallery are just waiting to be discovered.

Some are very common, not hard to spot at all, while others are not so common and require a fair amount of looking but well worth the effort.

Oxeye daisy Striking white and gold oxeye daisy flowers can turn a meadow white in summer, the large flower head distinguishes it from the common daisy. Also known as moon daisy from an apparent evening glow.
Snakes head fritillary One jewel in our wildflower crown is the snakes head fritillary, but the chequered flowers are becoming a rare sight. Known as leper lilies and lazarus bells as they resemble the bells worn by lepers in the Middle Ages.
Bird's foot trefoil Trefoils brighten any meadow, none more so than the bird's-foot. After the colourful yellow and red streaked peaflowers of this common flower come the bird's feet or claw shaped seed pods.
Knapweed Knapweeds are very widespread and provide a touch of purple to any meadow with their thistle-like flowers. Herbalists once used them to treat wounds, bruises and sore throats.
Bee orchid Meadows are home to some very beautiful and exotic-looking orchids. Bee orchids are fascinating and beautiful plants that certainly live up to their name: each flower looks like it has a bee resting on it.
Meadow rue The tall and fluffy flower heads of meadow rue are pretty easy to spot. The fragrant flowers are in fact made up of many creamy yellow stamens.
Devil's bit scabious This intriguingly named devil's bit scabious is about to burst in to delicate purple-blue flowers. The long root withers away after being bitten by the devil and were once used to treat skin conditions like scabies.

Looking through the images above you'll have noticed some very bizarre and wonderful names such as snakes head fritillary, devil's bit scabious and bird's-foot trefoil.

Interested to know how and why such common names come about? Then read our guide on how to describe wildlife.

Buzzing with insects

While the flowers are the visual stars of the show, they come with a multitude of interesting insects that use them for the nectar and pollen, or simply to eat the leaves.

Like us, insects can be attracted to the bright colours, interesting shapes and scents and it can be hard not to be captivated as they flit from flower to flower.

Here is an idea of some of the amazing insects that can be found in a wildflower meadow in summer.

Meadow insects

From left to right:

Dark green fritillary: just one species of butterfly that love flower-rich meadows, that flit between the flowers of knapweed and thistles.

Burnet moths: day-flying moths are really very attractive, burnet moths have glossy wings with red or yellow warning markings.

Bumblebees: with flowers come buzzing bumblebees busy feeding on nectar and gathering pollen, this one has full pollen sacs.

Dragonflies and damselflies: if there is water near then look out for these marvels of aerodynamic engineering resting on the plants.

Alive with animals

Wildflower meadows attract a variety of mammals and birds after the bounty on offer or just a safe place to nest.

Here is an idea of some of the mammals and birds that can be seen and heard in a wildflower meadow in summer.

Mammals and birds in a wildflower meadow.

From left to right:

Roe deer: surprisingly deer are not that easy to spot as they venture out of woodlands to graze a meadow or pasture.

Kestrel: birds of prey provide a mesmerising display as they sweep and swoop after a quick snack, at dusk look for barn owls.

Skylark: listen to the birds singing and see if you can pick out the skylark's iconic song radiating through the air.

Field vole: near impossible to see, small mammals such as mice, voles and shrews, are common meadow inhabitants.

Get out there and experience it

Butterfly bounty

Butterflies and flowers

See how colourful wildflowers and butterflies typify an English meadow

Hopefully this has given you a flavour of how spectacular a wildflower meadow can be, so now is the time to get out and experience the sights and sounds for yourself.

To help you find a meadow near you, try these organisations and charities:

The BBC Things to Do site has lots of other great free or not-for-profit nature activities to enjoy.

If you have a camera or phone with you, then these handy tips and tricks will help you to get the best out of your photographic equipment, whatever your level of expertise.

But please remember to follow the Countryside Code when out and about.

Been inspired?

Blooming marvellous


See how our wildflower hay meadows resulted from Roman tool innovation

If you have been inspired by what you have seen, then why not create your own garden wildflower meadow with this advice:

And finally why not take part in Plantlife's wildflower count this year and help the charity track our wildflowers.

Visited a meadow recently or grown some wildflowers in your garden or local patch? Then tell us about it on Facebook and Twitter @BBCNature.

And don't forget to share your wildflower photos on the Springwatch Flickr group.

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