Flora & Fauna

Wolstonbury Hill covers an area of approximately 83 hectares (206 acres) made up of 20% semi natural broadleaved woodland and 80% unimproved/semi improved grassland with one dew pond and a temporary pool. The rich calcareous grassland flora means that a large proportion of the site has been designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Chalk grassland is a particularly diverse habitat supporting as many as 50 separate plant species in 1 square metre as well as its associated animal species.


Although diverse in species chalk grassland is nationally scarce and so Wolstonbury provides a habitat for a number of notable plants. Wolstonbury is the only current Sussex site for man orchid Aceras anthropophorum and slender bedstraw Galium pumilum as well as having a population of the nationally scarce round-headed rampion Phyteuma orbiculare.

The hill also has a particularly good population of orchids including white helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium, fly orchid Ophrys insectifera, greater butterfly orchid Platanthera chlorantha, bee orchid Ophrys apifera, fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, twayblade Listera ovata, and pyramidal orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis.

Other species of interest occurring on chalk grassland include kidney vetch Anthyllis vilneraria, cowslip Primula veris, bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, devils’-bit scabious Succisa pratensis, rough hawkbit Leontodon hispidus, salad burnet Sanguisorba minor wild Thyme Thymus praecox and adder’s tongue Ophioglossum vulgatum.

Wolstonbury is home to over 30 species of butterfly including all the downland specialities of the blue variety. The Adonis Blue Lysandra bellargus is of particular note, its larvae feeding on horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa

More recently the rare silver spotted skipper has been positively identified and the Duke of Burgundy might also be added to this ever increasing list. If you look closely, many other weird and wonderful insects can also be found here. The fairy shrimp Chirocephalus diaphanous which inhabits seasonal pools is a red data book species and has legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Five other species that have been spotted which have a Nationally Scarce status are: Large chrysalis snail Abida secale, Downland chafer beetle Omaloplia ruricola, the jewel beetle Aphanisticus pusillus, the weevil Strophosomus faber and the ground weevil Trachyphloeus alternans.

The most abundant animal on the hill is by far the lowly ant. Countless thousands of strange looking lumps pepper the hill, each one being home to nearly 100,000 ants. Larva of both Adonis Blue and Chalkhill Blue butterflies have close associations with ants.

Wolstonbury is also home to many common species of mammal and has its fair share of birds including kestrels Falco tinnuculus, green woodpeckers Picus viridus and skylarks Alauda arvensis.

Mike Botterill
Chairman. And National Trust

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