Butterwort is an insectivorous plant. It produces bright purple flowers that have earned the species the alternative names of bog violet and marsh violet (4). The bright yellowish-green leaves feature numerous glands that secrete a sticky fluid which attracts insects. When the insects become trapped, the leaf slowly curls inwards and eventually the insect will be digested (5). The species is known as butterwort as it was thought to have magical properties and the juices from the leaves were rubbed onto cows’ udders in order to protect the milk (and resulting butter) from evil influences (4).
Common butterwort is a perennial plant that spends the winter as a dormant rootless bud (2). The habitats in which it occurs are so poor in nutrients that the evolutionary adaptation of feeding on insects has developed. Other plants living in such habitats, such as sundews, have also developed this trait.
This species is fairly common throughout much of Britain, with the exception of central and southern England where it becomes rare and is even absent from several counties (2). In these areas, the species has declined by a worrying 50% since 1930, but many of its sites were lost before the nineteenth century (3).
The decline of this species is due to the widespread loss and drainage of the wet habitats in which it occurs. Agricultural intensification is also to blame, and the decline of common butterwort is continuing today (3).
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