The Marsh Fritillary is threatened, not only in the UK but across Europe, and is therefore the object of much conservation effort.

The wings of this beautiful butterfly are more brightly patterned than those of other fritillaries, with more heavily marked races being found in Scotland and Ireland. The larvae spin conspicuous webs that can easily be recorded in late summer.

The Marsh Fritillary was once widespread in Britain and Ireland but has declined severely over the twentieth century. The Marsh Fritillary populations are highly volatile and the species requires extensive habitats or habitat networks for its long term survival. It is now confined to the western side of Britain and Ireland.

Size and Family

  • Family: Fritillaries
  • Size: Medium
  • Wing Span Range (male to female) - 42-48mm

Conservation status

  • Butterfly Conservation priority: High
  • Section 41 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in England
  • Section 42 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in Wales
  • Northern Ireland Priority Species
  • Scottish Biodiversity List
  • UK BAP: Priority Species                         
  • European status: Vulnerable                    
  • Fully protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act
  • Fully protected under then 1985 Northern Ireland Wildlife Order

Caterpillar Foodplants

The main foodplant is Devil's-bit-Scabious (Succisa pratensis). On calcareous grassland, it occasionally uses Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) and Small Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria).



There are three main habitat types: damp grasslands dominated by tussock forming grasses and chalk grasslands (usually on west or south-facing slopes in England) and shorter coastal grasslands (in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).  Temporary colonies may also exist in large (>1 ha) woodland clearings and in other grasslands.


  • Countries: England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland
  • Massively declined and now restricted to the west coast of Scotland, south and west Wales, Northern Ireland and south west and central southern England.
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = -46%.


Marsh Fritillary (upperwing) by Peter Eeles

Marsh Fritillary (upperwing)

Marsh Fritillary (upperwing female) by Jim Asher

Marsh Fritillary (upperwing female)

Marsh Fritillary (egg) by Peter Eeles

Marsh Fritillary (egg)

Marsh Fritillary (caterpillar) - Andrew Cooper

Marsh Fritillary (caterpillar)

Marsh Fritillary (caterpillar) by Peter Eeels

Marsh Fritillary (caterpillar)