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Brimstones & Buckthorn Project

In 1998 we spearheaded Brimstones and Buckthorn project with Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation, Ipswich Organic Gardeners Group, Ipswich Wildlife Group and the Wildlife Rangers at Ipswich Borough Council. We based the project upon the fact that female Brimstone butterflies are very good at finding their caterpillar food plant Buckthorn on which to lay eggs, from afar. In just two years, over 2000 bushes of both Common Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica and Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus were planted in the target area, and female Brimstones soon homed in with the first one turning up during fine sunny weather at a home in Bildeston on May Day, 1999.


The initiative aimed at getting people involved in growing Buckthorn bushes to attract breeding Brimstone butterflies which were scarce in the East of the county of Suffolk and was a wildlife gardening exercise. Today the butterfly is much more common in parts of Suffolk, due to these efforts.

Thirteen years on, and Matt (Greenwings) and myself along with Suffolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation have rolled out ‘Brimstones and Buckthorn’ once again. We aim to increase both the range and number of Brimstones seen in the parts of Suffolk where the butterfly continues to be elusive, whilst at the same time getting more people involved in wildlife gardening and in caring for the wider environment. Records of new sightings will be forwarded to the Suffolk Biological Records Office.

In April 2011, we launched the campaign at Jimmy Doherty’s Farm, along with BBC wildlife presenter Steve Backshall, during the opening of Jimmy’s butterfly house. Jimmy, Steve and Rob Parker, Suffolk’s county recorder for butterflies planted three buckthorns in Jimmy’s wildlife garden. It was great to have around 75 people and 3 schools sign up to Brimstones and Buckthorn, and moreover, to see literally hundreds of children and parents enthralled by both Jimmy and Steve’s captivating appeal to get involved with insects and wildlife.

In October 2011, we publicised the campaign in the local press to attract more participants, resulting in over 2000 bare-rooted whips being sent out to ‘customers’. Bushes were free and recipients are asked to monitor growth and loo

k out for Brimstones and egg laying activity over the following two years. £1,600 has been received so far for the project which includes £500 from Suffolk Naturalists’ Society and further help from HSBC.

Although it may again take a couple of years for the bushes to attract Brimstones, we are sure that it will be worth the wait and have a certain expectation this time around, due to the Brimstone’s proven ability to find the bush.

If you see Brimstones in the County of Suffolk, please contact us, at or Rob Parker at

View new Brimstones map in a larger map.


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