The Silver-washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia is one of Britain’s largest butterflies. Its swooping flight is one of the most beautiful sights to be found in woodland during high summer. This butterfly prefers to breed in broad-leaved woodland, especially oak woodland or woods with sunny rides and glades. It occasionally uses mixed broad-leaved and conifer plantations. Its main foodplant is Common Dog-violet growing in shady or semi-shady positions on the woodland floor.
It is named after the silver streaks on the underside which can be viewed as it stops to feed on flowers such as Bramble.
The increasing shade in many woodlands created by the decline in coppicing, together with the incrased maturity of woods, caused the extinction of this fine fritillary in large areas of its former range. Its need for fairly open woodland is strikingly demonstrated whenever trees are thinned, for the butterfly numbers shoot up from a few individuals to many scores during the next few years.
Woodland is one of the habitats which determines the character of the High Weald. The Management Plan, written specially for the AONB , sets out targets (which encourage everyone) to maintain existing extent of woodland, particularly ancient woodland. Long term management of woodland in the High Weald will benefit the Silver washed fritillary.