Two butterflies on bramble flowers. Both orangey brown with complex brown line markings

Silver-washed Fritillaries male (left) and female. Photo: Maire Murphy.

Large, eye-catching butterflies: a lovely sight fluttering through woodland.

Where to see

Habitat: Deciduous woodland

Caterpillar foodplants: Mainly Common Dog Violet but other violets too.

Best places: Widespread where there is woodland. Try Brackett's Coppice, Duncliffe Wood, Garston Wood, Hethfelton, Langton Westwood, Powerstock, or Stubhampton Bottom.

Reported from the following locations last year*:

When to see

Peaks in July, but can be seen a month either side.

Sightings by month (last 5 years)*:

Sightings this year*:


Size: large.

Size is the first distinguishing factor for this butterfly: it is large. The only other butterfly likely to be occasionally seen in the same habitat is the Dark Green Fritillary.

Male upperwings are different to all other fritillaries, having four black lines along the veins of the forewing; these are sex brands which during courtship burst open, showering the female with scent scales.

The underwings have a wash of green, like the Dark-Green Fritillary, but this is broken up by distinctive streaks of white/silver.

Between 5% and 15% of female Silver-Washed in Dorset are a variant called Valezina. Their upper wings are not orange, but a more muted colour, with a bronze green sheen, the underwings have a pinkish tinge, but still with the green wash and white streaks.

Eggs are laid in tree bark crevices or moss. The caterpillars hatch and hibernate in the tree, then in spring they drop to the ground and seek out violets.

Photo gallery

TIP Click thumbnails to view larger images.

*Please note: The charts shown on this page are drawn only from casual sightings submitted to this website. Records from this website will be added to a lot more data collected throughout the year and used to compile the five-yearly Butterfly Atlases for Dorset and the UK.