The Butterfly Bush


After a six minute walk from the V. C. along the Old Copse Trail around Meadleys meadow behind the cafe, you will find a Buddleia bush. I was walking past it last Wednesday and spotted a butterfly that I have not seen since my Dorset youth which, believe me, is a long time ago. It was the greenish form of the Silver-washed Fritillary. This is a large woodland butterfly which is usually brown with black spots, but there is a much rarer form of the female in which the bright brown background is replaced by a dull greenish colour. Stupidly I had left my camera at home, but I returned on three occasions until I had got some half-decent shots. At any one time there were up to eight individuals of the usual brown form on the bush, but I am pretty sure that there is just one specimen of the greenish form lurking around – and it is rather shy. It is quite special to see so many of this species in one place and is possible only because of the unusual woodland location of this Buddleia specimen. Other species seen on the same bush were Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Holly Blue and Large Skipper. My being there taking photos drew the attention of passers by to the butterflies and the resulting conversations were great, e.g. “Wow! I didn’t know there were that many species”; “I think you’ve got my son hooked”; “Thanks, this has become the most interesting walk we’ve had in ages”. The bush may not belong there but it is a real sensation and certainly earns its keep!

Rikki Harrington

Rikki undertakes the butterfly surveys for the Trust at Ashridge, tends the garden at the V C (along with his wife), and is a representative on the Estate Committee at Ivinghoe Aston.

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3 Responses to The Butterfly Bush

  1. Posh Janet says:

    Thankyou.What an interesting blog.I am lucky enough to have some woodland butterfly species in my garden on the edge of the forest.Strangely people walk by without even really noticing them so
    you must be gratified with the reception that you received.Please tell us more about butterflies..I have mullein flowers in my garden a bi-annual with grey leaves and a tall yellow spike of flowers.It’s leaves are eaten by the mullein moth caterpillar, voracious little beast stripping the
    Leaves completely.u

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  2. Barbara Matthewson says:

    “I spent a while yesterday afternoon at the buddleia on the track from The Monument to Old Copse.
    I’I’d been on a guided walk to see butterflies the day before at Aldbury Nowers led by the excellent Laura Baker, HMWT Senior Reserves Officer. One of the reserve volunteers on the walk described to us how the male silver washed fritillary fusses around the female, and scatters here with ferrimones, and if she is suitably impressed then they set off on their courtship flight. I’d seen this flight a couple of years ago from this buddleia, but yesterday I saw the preparation and invitation to take off as well as the flight, all starting off on a flower head really close to me – but no camera to hand and I didn’t want to disturb or stop watching. I felt very privileged to be in the right place at the right time.”

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    • johntrimmerbtconnectcom says:

      Nice one Rikki
      This is just what the volunteers should be doing – engaging with the public where possible. It is all about education, when the visitors are reluctant to ask questions.
      The Trust are seeking to improve the visitor experience and this is a great example of how to achieve it. ( we will need to prune the bush in the autumn )

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