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Veterans plant hundreds of wildflowers at Eden to support threatened butterfly habitat

Military veterans from the Defence Gardens Scheme (DGS) have been planting hundreds of devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) on the Eden Project’s Outer Estate in a bid to tackle habitat loss for the threatened marsh fritillary butterfly (Euphydryas aurinia).

Devil's-bit scabious

Veterans and volunteers plant devil's-bit scabious at the Eden Project

Devil's-bit scabious

Eden has been working in partnership with the DGS since May 2022 to provide nature-based therapy programmes for veterans facing mental health struggles.

The ten-week courses, which ran in May and September of this year, and will be returning for 2023, involve building, tending and harvesting vegetable patches and supporting the National Wildflower Centre (NWC) at Eden with this initiative.

The NWC cleaned, dried and carefully stored the seeds of the devil’s-bit scabious, which were collected by the NWC’s Wildflower Warrior volunteers from various locations across Cornwall, with the permission of landowners.

These were then grown from seed and cared for by the veterans and other attendees of Eden’s nature-based therapy programmes, which take place at the tranquil Vounder Farm, on the wider Eden estate, just beyond the Biomes.

Stephanie Knights, NWC Projects Manager at Eden, said: “Devil’s-bit scabious - also known simply as devil’s-bit - are a native British wildflower that have these dainty, blue rounded blooms that appear between July and October. The plants typically thrive in damp and acidic marsh-like environments, which have unfortunately faced a decline in the UK due to increasing temperatures, decreasing rainfall and intensive agriculture.

“The threatened marsh fritillary butterfly relies almost exclusively on these unassuming wildflowers for their food source, and these flowers were once widespread in the wild across Britain and Ireland. Now, in Cornwall, this is restricted to three main areas: the Lizard Peninsula heaths, mid-Cornwall and Bodmin moorlands.

“We’re lucky to have the perfect conditions on Eden’s Outer Estate area. So far, we’ve planted around 400 devil’s-bit, with the invaluable support of the DGS veterans, across two locations to increase this wildflower corridor for the marsh fritillary butterfly.”

Julia Durbin, Eden’s Horticultural Therapist, said: “It’s been wonderful to support the NWC with the growing, nurturing and planting out of this species that’s so important to habitat preservation of this threatened butterfly.

“Horticultural therapy taps into the peace and tranquillity of the natural world to help people who are struggling with their mental health, low confidence or isolation, in a very gentle way. It allows people to be outdoors, do some physical exercise, be in a peaceful space and grow their confidence by learning new skills.

“To be able to feel pride in what they achieve, and the wider conservational impacts in this case, we hope, is incredibly rewarding.”

For more information on nature-based therapy programmes at the Eden Project, contact Julia Durbin at and to find out more about the National Wildflower Centre at Eden, visit .