Devil’s bit scabious, Succisa pratensis

Devil’s bit scabious, Succisa pratensis is the food plant for the threatened marsh fritillary butterfly. The conservation of the butterfly is closely linked to the effective management of its marshy grassland habitat and the populations of devil’s bit scabious it contains.

In Carmarthenshire, the Caeau Mynydd Mawr SAC (Special Area of Conservation) represents an important stronghold for the marsh fritillary butterfly. The restoration and management of marshy grassland in the area has been identified as a key conservation aim. An understanding of the ecology of devil’s bit scabious is therefore vital for effective conservation work.

By understanding the ecology of devil’s bit scabious within and around Carmarthenshire and its relationship with the marsh fritillary butterfly, we can begin to give advice on restoration and management of marshy grassland for devil’s bit scabious.

We found that the long-term occurrence of the marsh fritillary butterfly is more likely in larger populations of devil’s bit scabious that are fitter. Smaller populations of devil’s bit scabious have unhealthier offspring.

This research has implications for the management and restoration of sites for the marsh fritillary butterfly.  For effective conservation, the establishment of both large and fit populations of devil’s bit scabious is important.