You are here

Marsh Fritillary

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

A nationally scare species; it likes damp, grassy downland sites so long as its food plant, devils-bit scabious occurs. On the wing in late May and throughout June


  • Marsh Fritillary: a bit of a devil around scabious

    Post date: Wednesday, 19 August, 2015 - 00:00

    The beautifully marked marsh fritillary (Eurodryas aurinia) is a nationally scarce species found mainly in southern Britain and Dorset has a small number of sites where it can still be seen. Although the 'marsh' fritillary it is not generally found in marshes, well not in Dorset at least, but usually in rough, damp grassland where its larval food plant, devil's-bit scabious, can be found.

    It is not a strong flyer and tends to stay together in small colonies which is one of the reasons for its decline, along with draining and improvement of grassland for agricultural purposes. It can be seen here from late April through until the end of May.


  • Marsh Fritillary in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

    Post date: Thursday, 9 May, 2019 - 21:23

    The marsh fritillary is yet another butterfly that is absent from much of Britain but that can be found in a number of places in Dorset. It is certainly not common here, nor is it anywhere, but careful habitat management means its seems to be holding its own and not suffering the declines of elsewhere in the country. Marsh fritillary is a bit of an odd name for this butterfly; it has the chequered wing patterns that fritillaries have but it is not found in marshes. It does like damp, flower rich meadows where devil's-bit scabious grows but it also can be found on dry downland slopes that are far from being 'marshy'. 

    The marsh fritillary is single brooded and the books say it emerges in Mid-May and can be seen until mid-July. The records we have so far in the Nature of Dorset database would indicate a much shorter season starting in week 19 which is mid-May but there are no reports after week 23 in mid-June. The most prolific weeks are 21 and 22 at the end of May and beginning of June.

    There are records from fourteen locations in Dorset which are split roughly equally between damp grasslands sites and chalk downland. Alners Gorse, Giant Hill and Powerstock Common all hold reasonably sized colonies and a visit at the right time of year to any one of these should give you a chance to see them.


Common Name Marsh Fritillary
Scientific Name Eurodryas aurinia
Species Group Nymphalid Butterflies Admirals and Fritillaries
Interest Level
Look for
Identification Notes
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Nymphalid Butterflies Admirals and Fritillaries