Orange butterfly with a lot of brown markings and some white, on a bramble flower

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Photo: Brian Arnold

There is one known colony of this butterfly left in Dorset. It is still in other areas of the country, but declining in England generally, probably due to habitat loss.

Its close relative, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, has not been recorded in Dorset since 2002. There have been attempts to re-introduce the Pearl-bordered Fritillary by persons unknown so key photos are shown below.

Where to see

Habitat: Grasslands interspersed with scrub or bracken.

Caterpillar foodplants: Mainly Common Dog Violet; theoretically also Marsh (or Bog) Violet, but this does not grow much in the area where this butterfly is known in Dorset.

Best places: Now only known to be found at Godlingston Heath in Purbeck. Please be aware that it may be necessary to keep the area from being trampled, so unlimited access for photography may not be possible. The National Trust are working hard to preserve the butterfly here, so please help them by putting the butterfly first.

Distribution map

Explore the Atlas to see historical distribution trends for this species.

When to see

One brood, on the wing in June.

Sightings by month (last 5 years)*:

Sightings this year*:

Browse the sightings archive.


Size: Medium

The most likely species with which you are going to confuse this is the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, but as this is now extinct in Dorset, you should sadly not have this problem, unless there has been an unapproved release. We have shown a couple of photos of the PBF for comparison below; differentiating them from above is difficult, so try and get a look at the underwings.

The males and females are similar, with the upperwings showing dark markings between the veins on a pale orange background plus dark spots in from the edges and lighter patches within brown ovals on the edges. The under forewing is similar, but the hindwing underneath is a patchwork of white and various shades of orange, with some black marks; there are white ovals around the edge. The fringes are checkered brown and white.

It is smaller than the other Fritillaries you might see in woodland: the Dark Green and (much bigger) Silver-washed Fritillary. A main identifier is the six silver patches on its hind underwing.

A SPBF flying around the same spot will probably be a male looking for a female. Once a female has mated she will be seen flying deliberately and low over vegetation looking for plants on which to lay.

Photo gallery

Tip: Click thumbnails to view full-size images.

*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.

Find more Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary related content, including news and photos.