Meadow Butterflies and Plants they eat

Where have all the butterflies gone?


First a little bit about the loss of our meadows and grassland and the effect on the butterfly populations.


If you're as old as me you might remember that Up to about the 1960s the countryside of Great Britain, was full of wildflowers, growing by the roadside, in country lanes, along the hedges and in meadows.


Forced by globalisation  and low prices paid by supermarkets to our farmers for British farm produce and encouraged by the chemical companies, farmers ploughed up the traditional wild flower meadows to reseed them with hybrid rye grasses or arable crops, removing the most important source of nectar and food butterflies, caterpillars and larvae needed to survive.


Ploughing up unfertilised meadows and the use of herbicide and fertiliser has wiped out wild flowers and the effect on butterfly populations has been disastrous. One estimate is that about 97% of flower-rich meadows have been lost over the past 50 years.


There is some good news for our native wildflowers and the butterflies and other wildlife dependent on the traditional English meadows. More wild lawns and mini wildflower meadows are being grown in our gardens and thanks to growing demand for organic food, more farmers are moving back to old farming methods, breaking away from chemical dependency and the supermarket buyers, by selling their farm produce at farmers markets.

This is helping to balance the loss of flower-rich meadows.




...........Transforming your garden lawn into a mini meadow or wild flower lawn will encourage the butterflies I have listed in this article back into your garden.  

Even in the early seasons your mini wildflower meadow will attract butterflies, providing nectar in the form of wildflowers and the plants and grasses will provide food for the caterpillar and larvae enabling butterflies to complete their life cycle.


Where have all the butterflies gone Mum? They have gone hunting for food and homes son. 


Why is it Brexit? No worse than that. The wildflower meadows that were their homes, and the wildflower nectar that was their food have all gone. 


What can Theresa May do?   Nothing she has got her hands full with brexit.  


What can we do mum?   Nothing son. 


Could we grow a meadow in our lawn please mum, 

flowerpotman says it is easy to grow wildflowers.


Butterflies you could attract to an English garden by planting these plants

If you Let your lawn go wild it won't be long before you see and enjoy butterflies in your garden. The butterflies your garden attracts will depend on the type of soil and wildflowers that will grow in it and I have listed a few of the commoner butterflies  and the wildflowers and grasses they need to survive here. 

List of Plants and the butterflies they attract

Attracting butterflies to your garden

Plant the right shrubs and flowers and the butterflies will come. There are lots of plants that will attract  butterflies, some will attract a particular species some  a selection of species, native British wildflowers are particularly good.

Remember, it's good to have a variety of different plants that flower at different times of the year, ensuring a ready supply of nectar throughout the seasons.

In Spring good nectar providing plants are Cuckoo Flower (Ladies Smock), Forget-me-not, Wallflower, Sweet Rocket, Primrose and Daisies.

In Summer and Autumn, Budleia, French Marigold, Lavender, Ice Plant, Red Valerian, Michaelmas Daisy, Scabious, Knapweed and Ivy are all good.


What  plants will attract which butterflies?

Butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, but a lot of species will only lay their eggs on one or two very specific plants. If you have these in your garden you can help ensure their future survival.

Common Nettle  will attract Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady, Comma

Cock's Foot  is prefered by Wall Brown, Speckled Wood, Small Skipper, Ringlet, Essex Skipper, Large Skipper

Common Rock Rose  attracts  Brown Argus, Green Hairstreak, Northern Brown Argus, Silver Studded Blue

Common Birdsfoot Treoil attracts  Wood White, Silver Studded Blue, Real's Wood White, Green Hairstreak, Dingy Skipper, Common Blue

Common Dog Violet  Dark Green Fritillary, High Brown Fritillary, Pearl Boarded Fritillary, Silver Washed Fritillary, Small Pearl Boarded Fritillary

Fescues, Bents, Meadow grass, Tor-grass are favoured by Meadow Brown, Marbled White, Lulworth Skipper, Greyling, Gatekeeper, Silver Spotted Skipper, Small Heath, Wall Brown.


Some species can only be found in certain areas of the UK. If you'd like to find out what butterflies you could find in your area have a look at the National Biodiversity Network. 


These are five of the most commonly seen butterflies in Britain.


Meadow Brown is a brown and orange butterfly with black eye spots on the fore-wings. It is very common and widespread throughout the UK and can be found in a variety of habitats including parks and gardens. The caterpillars feed on a wide range of grasses such as fescues and bents and the butterflies can be seen from June to August.

Large White

A large bright white butterfly with black tips on its forewings common throughout the whole of the UK. It also has two black spots on the underside of its wings. The caterpillars feed on  cabbages and brussels-sprouts, so they are not always a welcome garden visitor. The adult butterflies can be seen from May to September. They can be found in a wide range of habitats but especially in gardens, allotments and fields where they breed.

Holly Blue

A small bright blue butterfly with black spots on the underside of its wings. It is widespread in England and Wales and its range is expanding northwards into Scotland and NI.

The caterpillars feed on holly in spring and ivy in summer and the two generations of adult butterflies can be seen April-May and August-September. It can be found in lots of habitats such as hedgerows, gardens and churchyards, or anywhere where holly and ivy are present.

Red Admiral

A large black winged butterfly with striking red bands and white spots on its wings. They are common and widespread throughout the UK. They are a migratory species, going north, with females laying eggs along the way.

The caterpillars feed on common nettle and the butterflies can be seen from July until as late as October or November. They are found in a wide range of habitats including gardens.


A fairly large butterfly with red and black wings. It has easily recognisable eye spots on both sets of wings. It can be found throughout the UK and its range is still expanding.

The caterpillars eat common nettle although they have also been found on small nettle and hop. The adult butterflies can be seen from July to September and they are common garden visitors.