A favourite foodplant of caterpillars of the Small Copper Butterfly and Forester Moth
Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetocella) is rarely included in wildflower seed mixes as it's not a member of the pollinator club - being mainly wind pollinated it doesn't produce large pretty flowers and nectar to attract pollinating insects. Despite this, from the aesthetic point of view, its red stems and seed heads blowing in the wind make a welcome splash of colour in early spring.
As an added bonus the leaves are edible for us too, and are often included in supermarket salad mixes, having a sharp acidic taste, but don't eat too many - avoid stomach ache and leave some for the caterpillars. The caterpillars of the delightful Small Copper butterfly need them more than we do. They like their leaves fresh and juicy so plant them somewhere dampish where they wont dry out..
INCREASE BIODIVERSITY BY GROWING SHEEP'S SORREL TO SUPPORT THE SMALL COPPER BUTTERFLY AND COLOURFUL FORESTER MOTH
SMALL COPPER Lycaena phlaeas
Fastidious in its food requirements, the caterpillars of the Small Copper must have Sheep's Sorrel or Common Sorrel, or in an emergency, Dock. Fresh, juicy leaves are much preferred over dried out ones.
Although still one of the most common butterflies throughout Britain and Ireland the Small Copper has not escaped a significant decline in recent years.
The abundance of its foodplant and the fact that it is quite a prolific butterfly with often as many as three or even four broods in a warm year no doubt helps to keep its numbers up..
SMALL COPPER in the hand
The Small Copper is a very 'tame' butterfly and can easily be persuaded to come onto your hands, like this one snapped on a walk near Cameron Reservoir, St Andrews.
he Forester is a metallic green day-flying moth present in England and Wales but in only a few locations in Scotland.
Its caterpillar foodplants are SHEEP'S SORREL and COMMON SORREL
The image is described as 'tentative' because there are two other moths very similar in appearance. These are the Cistus Forester Moth (Adscita geryon), which has Rock-rose as its caterpillar food plant, and the Scarce Forester (Adscita globulariae) found only in the south of England which has Knapweed and Greater Knapweed as its caterpillar food plants.
Once they have finished feeding, Forester Moth caterpillars spin a cocoon and pupate near the ground at the foot of dense vegetation. The adults of all three of these species feed on nectar.