Meadow Habitats

Species rich and colorful meadows have been established in Central Europe over many centuries, as they have been consistently used for the production of hay and straw. The species diversity is at its highest when mowed once or twice per year with no or little fertilizing. Due to increasingly intense usage and land conversion, such extensively used, ecologically valuable habitats have actually become very rare. Three grassland areas in the Botanical Garden are cultivated accordingly to preserve rare plant communities for teaching and research purposes on sufficiently large areas. Selected threatened species from the Ex-Situ Conservation Program are also propagated at these sites.

View of the orchid meadow with the western marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis) and buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) in a Caricetalia davallianae stand

Year-round soaking from constantly flowing groundwater and one mowing per year determine the species composition of the wet meadow, which spontaneously cropped up in a source area of the Kayenmühlengraben brook. In May and June, large populations of the western marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis) and the buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) determine the aspect of this habitat. Every so often, common reed (Phragmites australis) needs to be removed to allow the many wildflowers and orchids to flourish.

The moist meadow is less wet, but near to groundwater, more shaded, and has higher air humidity. Vegetatively, it is comprised mostly of taller grasses and perennial herbs, for example the marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), cabbage thistle (Cirsium oleraceum), and meadow sweet (Filipendula ulmaria). It needs to develop further, in parts into a Filipendulo ulmariae-Geranietum palustris. A highlight in the springtime is the rare snake’s head (Fritillaria meleagris), which covers most of the marsh area when it blooms. A bit later in the year, one can see the beautiful pink flowers of the common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and of the common twayblade (Listera ovata).

In a sun-exposed southern site lies a sandy dry grassland with a calcareous and acidophytic variant, characteristic of sandy sites in the Northeast German inlands of the post-glacial period. The early summer aspect is largely characterized by the sea thrift (Armeria maritima) of the leadwort family (Plumbaginaceae), which is typical for the Baltic coast region. Sparsely planted fruit trees evoke the aspect of a traditional orchard.

View of the sandy dry grassland where Diantho deltoides-Armerietum elongatae and Sileno otitae-Festucetum brevipilae mix