Helping The Northern Brown Argus

The Northern Brown Argus - Edinburgh's very own butterfly

A pioneering conservation project is providing Edinburgh’s Northern Brown Argus butterfly with a choice of penthouse residences.


A Square Metre for Butterflies will create an aerial network of rooftop habitats across the city for Edinburgh’s once elusive butterfly, the Northern Brown Argus butterfly, as well as other butterfy species who flutter around the city’s streets, gardens and parks.

At the launch in December, it was announced that the first of these rooftop butterfly residences will be on top of Glenmorangie’s headquarters and high on The Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood.


Patches of rock rose on green roofs surrounding Arthur’s Seat


A Square Metre for Butterflies aims to plant patches of common rock rose – the favourite food plants of Northern Argus butterfly caterpillars – on green roofs surrounding Arthur’s Seat and further afield to encourage the existing population to expand and colonise newly-created habitats.

“Green roofs are perfect because the butterfly is usually found living at height and these roofs will provide warmth, food and shelter in the city,” said Leonie Alexander, urban biodiversity project officer at RBGE.

“We are also hoping to attract at least two other species – small copper butterflies and blue butterflies – by providing plants that their caterpillars will feed on.’’


“Welcoming Edinburgh’s butterfly back to the city centre”


Anthony McCluskey, urban butterfly project officer with Butterfly Conservation Scotland, added: “It’s remarkable that this scarce species lives so close to the city.

“We’re excited to be welcoming Edinburgh’s butterfly – the Northern Argus – back to the city centre and hope that it inspires people to make more space for these beautiful creatures.

“Anyone can attract butterflies to their home – and you don’t need a green roof to do it. A simple window box full of nectar-rich plants can help butterflies on their way.’’


A Square Metre for Butterflies is a partnership between the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and Butterfly Conservation Scotland and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.



The Northern Argus

The Northern Brown Argus is Edinburgh’s very own butterfly.

For years, it existed on Arthur’s Seat and was assuming to be a slightly different version of the Brown Argus, which it closely resembles. In 1793, however, closer inspection revealed that this butterfly was actually a completely new species.

This made it a highly-prized addition for collectors, and by 1869 it had disappeared, mainly due to over-zealous collecting.

In 2005, however, the species was rediscovered at Holyrood and the population has continued to increase ever since.