This is one of the earliest fritillaries to emerge and can be found as early as April in woodland clearings or rough hillsides with bracken.

It flies close to the ground, stopping regularly to feed on spring flowers such as Bugle. It can be distinguished from the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary by the two large silver 'pearls' and row of seven outer 'pearls' on the underside hind wing, and also the red (as opposed to black) chevrons around the outer pearls and the small central spot on the hind wing.

The butterfly was once very widespread but has declined rapidly in recent decades, and is now highly threatened in England and Wales.

Size and Family

  • Family: Fritillaries
  • Size: Medium
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 44-47mm

Conservation status

  • Section 41 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in England
  •  Section 42 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in Wales
  • Scottish Biodiversity List
  • UK BAP: Priority Species    
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: High                        
  • European status: Not threatened            
  • Protected under Schedule 5 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act (for sale only)

    Caterpillar Foodplants

    The most widely used foodplant is Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana) although it can use other violets such as Heath Dog-Violet (V. canina) and in the north, Marsh Violet (V. palustris).



    Three main habitats are used: woodland clearings, usually in recently coppiced or clear-felled woodland; well-drained habitats with mosaics of grass, dense bracken and light scub and open deciduous wood pasture in Scotland.  

    In all habitats it requires abundant foodplants growing in short, sparse vegetation, where there is abundant leaf litter.


    • Countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
    • Once very widespread across Britain, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary remains widespread only in the northern half of Scotland, south Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall, and the woodlands of South East England.
    • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = Britain: -61%

    Pearl-bordered Fritillary (upperwing) by Jim Asher

    Pearl-bordered Fritillary (upperwing)

    Pearl-bordered Fritillary (freshly emerged adult) -Andrew Cooper

    Pearl-bordered Fritillary (freshly emerged adult)

    Pearl-bordered Fritillary (egg) by Peter Eeles

    Pearl-bordered Fritillary (egg)

    Pearl-bordered Fritillary (caterpillar) by Nigel Kemp

    Pearl-bordered Fritillary (caterpillar)