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England's Woods & Forests
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Silver-washed fritillary

The silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) is a Species of Conservation Concern in Britain. Changes in woodland management in recent years have led to the decline of this once common species. It was widespread across England and Wales, but is now found in southern and south-western England.


Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia)



Silver-washed fritillaries live in sunny, sheltered clearings in broadleaf woodlands. They may also use overgrown hedgerows near woodlands. Silver-washed fritillaries form discrete colonies and rarely move from one woodland to another.


Individual eggs are laid on tree trunks in crevices and moss.


The caterpillars hatch and hibernate over winter. In spring, they fall to the ground and feed on violets. The adult butterfly flies between June and August.


Caterpillars feed on common dog-violet growing in woodlands. Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of brambles.


Changes in woodland management over recent years have led to the decline of the species. The traditional practice of coppicing that maintained the open nature of many woodlands has declined. Active management of broadleafed woodland is being neglected, leading to them becoming shaded and dark.


The silver-washed fritillary is named after the silver streaks on the undersides of the wing. It has a rapid, swooping flight.

How we manage our woods

The Forestry Commission, working in partnership with Butterfly Conservation, is managing woods by actively coppicing areas to produce trees in different stages of growth. This provides a variety of habits and allows the food plants that this species depend on to flourish. Heavy thinning operations are creating gaps in the tree canopy and rides to allow butterflies to move freely and create further colonies. 

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.