Bringing butterflies on green roofs right to the heart of Scotland


Rare butterflies will be fluttering across the roofscapes of Edinburgh, if a new project succeeds. ‘A Square Metre for Butterflies’ is a partnership between the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and Butterfly Conservation Scotland.

The project aims to plant the common rock rose on a series of green roofs around Arthur’s Seat to help the rare Northern Brown Argus butterfly.

Northern Brown Argus butterfly, photo Jim Asher/Butterfly Conservation Trust


Bringing Biodiversity to the centre of the Scottish Government

Northern Brown Argus butterflies once flourished around Arthur’s Seat but became extinct due to habitat changes and over-zealous collecting. However in 2005, the species was discovered around Holyrood, the seat of the Scottish parliament. So the new project aims to plant rock rose on the Scottish Parliament’s green roofs.

Furthermore, Glenmorangie the famous whisky distillery also have a green roof nearby on their headquarters and are taking part in the project.

The common rock rose is a good green roof plant and should flourish, and hopefully attract the butterflies. A quick look at the roofscapes of Edinburgh shows that there are quite a few green roofs in the area. Let’s hope the rock roses bear fruit.

Some of Edinburgh’s recent green roofs, photo

Butterflies on green roofs

Although the project highlights the Northern Brown Argus, it also aims to attract other species too. Common Blue and Small Copper it is hoped will also grace the green roofs. Both of these species have been seen on green roofs in the London area. Furthermore, species such as Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Lesser Tortoiseshell and Meadow Brown have also been recorded on green roofs in Southern England that have been planted with wildflowers.

We hope that the project in Scotland and the aspirations of many in the country see green roofs flourish and spread. If they do, then healthy urban areas with greater biodiversity – and a home for rare wildlife like the Northern Brown Argus and other more common wildlife – will be the result.

Scotland - green roofs and butterflies
Female Common Blue butterfly on green roof in London