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Butterfly beauties on green roofs

Butterfly beauties on green roofs

Butterfly beauties do make it to the top of buildings with green roofs. The highest green roof in London installed back in 2005 attracted many insects species within a few weeks. Butterflies, five species in fact, were amongst those that found their way to the roof at 156m.

Butterfly beauties – Common Blue

Butterfly beauties - Common blue
Common blue on the original brown roof


Last week, whilst visiting the Laban Dance Centre in Deptford, several butterflies put in an appearance. The first species, the Common blue,  happily rested on a stem, sunning itself. This species is relatively common on green roofs. As a matter of fact,  they probably breed on many green roofs in the capital.  Bird’s foot trefoil is an important food plant for several species of insects. This species is a key component of the London living roofs seed mix.

Butterfly beauties – Lesser tortoiseshell

Another species encountered on my visit, the Lesser tortoiseshell, flew in from below to feed on the lucerne. Taking a rest, it too sunned itself on the edge of the smoke vents.


Butterfly green roof London
Lesser tortoiseshell on Laban Dance Centre Green Roof


I do know a few green roofs where Stinging nettle does grow. Although this is the food plant of the Lesser tortoiseshell, I think it unlikely that they breed green roofs.

I, however, regularly see this butterfly on high.  They not only visit good green roofs designed for biodiversity, but also intensive roof gardens. One Embankment Place is an intensive roof garden I monitor for biodiversity.  Over the last two years, I have seen tortoiseshells rising to the gardens to feed.

Butterfly - London intensive green roof
Roof garden tortoishell


Part of the reason for sharing my wildlife photographs to the #WildLondoncomp is to celebrate London’s unsung green infrastructure. Like gardens and the capital’s wild spaces, green roofs are part of London’s green fabric.

Although the Londoners may well not be able to visit these green spaces, London’s wildlife can and does.

Dusty Gedge is a green infrastructure specialist and naturalist.  He is recognised international public speaker on biodiversity green roofs and green infrastructure. 



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