Did you know that Estonia boasts the most species-rich wooded meadows in the world, with 70 species of plants growing in the space of just one square metre? That makes certain corners of Estonia even more diverse than the tropics! For example, the wooded meadow in Laelatu has been recorded as having as many as 76 plant species per square metre, just beating the meadow in Vahenurme (which has a mere 74 species). Some of the most eye-catching inhabitants of these meadows are orchids, which local folk would have you believe stoke the fires of love and passion. A total of 36 separate species of orchid are found in Estonia. The best time to visit wooded meadows and explore their verdant world of flora is in June, since they are traditionally mown in July.
A wooded meadow is a regularly tended hay field which is dotted with bushes and small trees. They emerged around human settlements more than 4000 years ago when people started using wood and later began grazing animals. Until the early 20th century they were the most common type of hay field in Estonia. However, mowing practices using horses and then tractors, and the period of intensive agriculture that followed, saw most wooded meadows replaced by treeless hay fields.