Common butterwort

Common Butterwort

©Philip Precey

Common butterwort

Scientific name: Pinguicula vulgaris
The carnivorous lifestyle of Common butterwort makes this heathland plant a fascinating species. Its leaves excrete a sticky fluid that tempts unsuspecting insects to land and become its prey.

Species information


Height: up to 15cm

Conservation status


When to see

May to July


Common butterwort is an insectivorous plant. Its bright yellow-green leaves excrete a sticky fluid that attracts unsuspecting insects; once trapped, the leaves slowly curl around their prey and digest it. The acidic bogs, fens and damp heaths that Common butterwort lives in do not provide it with enough nutrients, so it has evolved this carnivorous way of life to supplement its diet. It has purple flowers that appear from May to July, providing its other common names of 'Bog Violet' and 'Marsh Violet'.

How to identify

Common butterwort has a rosette of yellow-green and sticky leaves that appear flat to the ground and are shaped like a star. It produces around two or three upright flower stalks which bear small, deep purple flowers.


Most common in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; scattered populations in North West England.

Did you know?

Many years ago, people believed that rubbing the juices of the leaves of Common butterwort into the udders of cows would protect against evil and bad butter; hence the common name.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working to restore and protect our heathlands by promoting good management, clearing encroaching scrub and implementing beneficial grazing regimes. This work is vital if these habitats are to survive; you can help by supporting your local Wildlife Trust and becoming a member or volunteer.