Scientific name: Argynnis aglaja
This large, powerful, orange and black butterfly is one of our most widespread fritillaries and can be seen flying rapidly in a range of open sunny habitats.
The males are very similar to much the rarer High Brown Fritillary, which has an extra row of orange-ringed ‘pearls’ on the underside of the hindwing and sometimes flies with them on bracken-covered hillsides. They are distinguished by the colour of their underwing markings (green-hued and various shades of brown, as their names suggest), which are visible when they are feeding on flowers such as thistles.
The females have the same black pattern as the male, but are paler in colour. They are less conspicuous than the males, resting and egg-laying in low vegetation, although they often emerge to nectar. Both males and females feed early in the morning and in late afternoon, flying erratically and only pausing for a couple of seconds as they feed. They live in self-contained colonies, sometimes of large numbers, but are usually only seen flying in singly or in twos.
The conical eggs are laid singly on the foodplant or a nearby stem of grass or twig. Over the two to three weeks of this stage of the lifecycle, the eggs change colour from yellow to purple then dark grey.
On emerging from the egg, the caterpillar eats its eggshell then immediately finds somewhere to hibernate, such as a dead leaf, where it remains until the spring, when it can be seen feeding and basking in sunshine. By the time it has matured, after moulting five times, its colouring is a purplish-black with red spots, white specks, a faint yellow line and black bristles.
The caterpillar makes a tent-like structure using vegetation, where it hangs upside down and turns into a black and brown coloured chrysalis. The length of this stage is weather-dependant, so can last from three to four weeks, until it emerges as a butterfly in June.
The Dark Green Fritillary has declined in parts of central and eastern England, but remains locally abundant in western England, around the coast of Wales and in Scotland.
Size and Family
- Family: Fritillaries
- Size: Large
- Wing Span Range (male to female): 63-69mm
- Butterfly Conservation priority: Medium (but a regional priority in several England regions)
- European status: Not threatened
Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana) is used in many habitats, but Hairy Violet (V. hirta) is also used on calcareous grasslands, and Marsh Violet (V. palustris) on moorland and wetter habitats in the north and west. Other violets may be used occasionally.
The butterfly occurs in a range of open sites: flower-rich grasslands often with patches of scrub, coastal grassland, dunes ad undercliffs; chalk and limestone grassland; moorland and wet flushes; acid grassland with bracken; and occasionally woodland rides and clearings.
- Countries: England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland
- Throughout Britain, but in discrete areas. Rarer in the east and in Ireland.
- Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = Britain: -30%
- Bracken for Butterflies
- Fritillary Butterflies of Dartmoor
- Dark Green Fritillary Regional Priority Species Factsheet