Volunteers Plant Over 100 Plants to Help Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary Butterfly

Anne Porter Heart of Durham, Heart of Durham Blog, News

Marsh violets and, to a lesser extent dog violets, are the staple food plant of the larvae of the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. Last Friday Durham Wildlife Trust’s Heart of Durham volunteers planted 125 pots of violets on a site adjacent to Longburnford Quarry Nature Reserve.

The site lies on an adjacent farm, and with the kind permission of the landowner a small section of wet land along the burn side has been fenced off to protect it from browsing cattle. Excluding cattle will allow wild flowers to regenerate and marsh violets to be planted.

Longburnford Quarry, the adjacent roadside verges and land to the west of the road all the way to the Waskerley Way, are  important sites for the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, once County Durham’s rarest butterfly.

Looking along the river Browney corridor, a small extension to the marshy area at Longburnford Quarry may not seem much, but every gain for wildlife is important on a landscape scale.


Marsh violets have spherical leaves and very light mauve flowers, whereas the leaves of dog violets are distinctly heart shaped and much greener, with a dark purple flower head. Marsh violets, as their name implies, like wetter conditions, whilst the dog violets like drier areas.


Krys Stenhouse, volunteer with the Heart of Durham Project holds out a pot of marsh violets on the left and a pot of dog violets on the right


Marsh violets (left) and dog violets (right)


Lesley, Krys and Ann planted over 125 pots of violets in the newly fenced off area. Here the pots are being soaked in the stream before being planted out



Krys planting dog violets


Planted in close proximity to each other the marsh violets seem to fare better, and will eventually spread across the site. Hopefully their presence will entice the small pearl bordered fritillary butterfly, which is on the wing in June, to lay their eggs on their leaves.


Planting in wet muddy conditions is not an easy task and gloves and boots quickly become laden with glutinous soil. Thankfully the stream was at hand to wash off the majority of mud.

A big thank you to volunteers, Ann, Krys and Lesley who planted out all the pots of violets- no mean task at all and thank you to the land owner.

Please click here for more information on the Heart of Durham Project.

Photographs taken by Heart of Durham volunteer Ann Walsby on Friday the 21st of April

Anne Porter

Anne Porter initially joined the Heart of Durham project as a volunteer, helping to carry out adder surveys on an 8-week placement as part of a post-graduate degree in Environmental Management. Anne’s dedication and enthusiasm for her work continues to inspire people of all ages to get involved nature conservation.