Nutrient-poor meadows and rough pastures

Green rarities

Author: Werner Schubert
Author: Werner Schubert

Nowadays very few grasslands are really nutrient-poor

Nutrient-poor meadows and rough pastures often harbour many plant species that have become very rare today. These include, for example, the orchids. Less-competitive plants that would die out in fertilized grassland can gain a foothold here in nutrient-poor grassland.

The most nutrient-poor, lime-free soils of montane regions are locations for Mat-Grass communities. This grassland type is a result of heavy grazing. It provides a refuge for plant species that are now classified as valuable but were once regarded as pasture weeds because they were unpalatable for grazing livestock. This is because Mat-Grass has hard blades that form bristly clumps. Other plants defend themselves with thorns and spines against browsing. Many light-loving, small-growing species of plants thrive in the short and often sparse-growing Mat-Grass communities, such as Milkwort or Marsh Lousewort. The valuable, well-known medicinal plant Arnica can also establish itself here.

Mat-Grass communities are rare today. Even a single application of fertilizer destroys this rare habitat.

One of the most biodiverse habitats of South Westphalia is the calcareous low-nutrient meadow. Even a very small area will harbour numerous specialised species. Butterflies, grasshoppers and other insects colonize these dry, warm sites that also provide a habitat for the thermophilic Sand Lizard and the Smooth Snake.