Dry grasslands are among the most threatened plant communities of Central Europe. We explore the time scale of spontaneous regeneration of dry grasslands on abandoned fields in an area of Central Europe, where also ancient grassland communities occur (Saxony-Anhalt, Germany). On three permanent plots with shallow soils we monitored during 10 years change of species composition and analysed whether spontaneous succession leads to assemblages similar to the ancient dry grassland communities in the direct surroundings. We found that dry grassland species are able to invade the permanent plots and during the 10 years of succession the number of dry grassland species increased. But even after 10 years there was a clear difference between ancient dry grassland communities and the assemblages on the permanent plots. Our findings suggest two important conclusions: First, spontaneous succession on abandoned fields is a cheap possibility for the conservation of some dry grassland species, at least on shallow soils. Second, the time scale of the regeneration process, however, is rather long. Hence, conservation of remnants of ancient grassland communities needs special attention.