Chalk grassland plants
These usually have leaves which are tough and thin-bladed or in flat rosettes so they are less likely to dry out or be trampled.
Some are common and may be found along The Ridgeway but others are more likely to be seen in one of the nature reserves on or near the Trail. They are mostly found flowering from spring through to early summer, with only a few species flowering in late summer. Look out for the following:
• Orchids: common spotted, pyramidal, fragrant and bee orchid (the latter is rare)
• Several vetches (members of the pea family): bird’s-foot trefoil, kidney vetch, horseshoe vetch, sainfoin and rest-harrow
• Bellflowers (relatives of campanula and Canterbury bells often grown by gardeners): clustered bellflower and harebell. The rare early purple gentian and Chiltern’s gentian may be found on reserves eg Aston Rowant and Dancersend.
• Cowslips, common rockrose, chalk milkwort, hay or yellow rattle, yellow-wort and eyebright
• Small scabious and Devil’s Bit scabious (the latter is less common)
• Herbs such as wild thyme, marjoram, wild basil and salad burnet.
• Grasses: sheep’s fescue, quaking grass, bent, downy oat, tor grass and upright brome
• Juniper bushes (rare in the Chilterns)
There are a number of butterflies and other insects that are associated with chalk grassland plants and might be seen from spring or summer through to early autumn.
• Common butterfly species of the countryside: brimstone, small tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral, small and large whites, orange tip, meadow brown and skippers.
• Other common insects: spotted burnet moth, grasshopper and cricket (usually heard rather than seen)
• Butterfly species whose caterpillars feed on chalk grassland plants: marbled white, small blue (feeds only on kidney vetch), common blue (feeds mostly on bird's-foot trefoil), green hairstreak and brown argus (feeds mainly on common rock-rose
• Rare butterfly species which feed on specific plants: Adonis blue and chalk hill blue (both feed on horseshoe vetch), Duke of Burgundy fritillary (feeds on cowslip and primrose) and silver spotted skipper (feeds on sheep's fescue grass)