Search for Common Rock-rose

Common Rock-rose on coast, Kincraig (© Deirdre Munro)
Common Rock-rose, Kincraig (© Deirdre Munro)

…you could save a butterfly

Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium) is a low-growing evergreen shrub, found on grassy lime-rich banks, cliffs, and, in Scotland, also in heathland.  When in flower, it is conspicuous, creating bright yellow splashes on the landscape.  It is a good source of nectar for various bees and provides food for beetles and butterflies, including one particularly important species: Northern Brown Argus (Aricia artaxerxes).

Northern Brown Argus is a small butterfly with a highly variable pattern of wing spots.  It is restricted to the north of the UK and unfortunately has shown considerable population decline1.  It is a conservation priority: it is on the Scottish Biodiversity List of species of principal importance for biodiversity conservation2, is a Priority Species in the Biodiversity Action Plan UK (UKBAP)3, and was listed as vulnerable in the Butterfly Red List for Great Britain4.

Northern Brown Argus, underside (© Colin Edwards)
Northern Brown Argus (© Colin Edwards)

To help learn more about Northern Brown Argus in Fife, Fife Nature Records Centre and Butterfly Conservation – East Scotland Branch are calling on you to report any sightings of Common Rock-rose.  As the primary food-plant for the caterpillars, knowing where this plant can be found will help target future survey effort and may advise future land management, helping to secure the future of Northern Brown Argus in Fife.  Events to survey for the butterfly will be held in  2019.

How to get involved

Look out for bright yellow flowers, on banks, by cliffs and in heathland between June and September, when Common Rock-rose is in flower.  If safe to do so, take a closer look to see if it matches the features described below.  Take photographs of the overall plant, flower and leaves and make a note of where and when you saw it.  Then, submit the details to us on our online recording form, including your photographs.

Common Rock-rose (with beetle larvae), showing bud (© Deirdre Munro)
Common Rock-rose with buds (plus beetle larvae!) (© Deirdre Munro)
Recognising Rock-rose

Overall appearance:

  • Dwarf shrub, usually 5-30cm in height
  • Tends to be low-growing; can be an undershrub
  • Spreading / creeping plant with trailing stems


  • Bright yellow
  • Up to 2-3cm wide
  • 5 petals
  • Petals often described as crumpled and tissue paper-like
  • Central ‘dome’ of many yellow stamens
  • Flower buds have distinctive red stripes


  • Narrow, oval-oblong; up to 2cm long

    Northern Brown Argus egg on Common Rock-rose leaf (© Colin Edwards)
    Northern Brown Argus egg on Common Rock-rose leaf (© Colin Edwards)
  • Dark green and fleshy
  • Grey/white downy underside
  • In opposite pairs along stem
Common Rock-rose, showing flower and leaf (© Colin Edwards)
Common Rock-rose, showing flower and leaf (© Colin Edwards)




Useful links
  1. Fox, R., Brereton, T.M., Asher, J., August, T.A., Botham, M.S., Bourn, N.A.D., Cruickshanks, K.L., Bulman, C.R., Ellis, S., Harrower, C.A., Middlebrook, I., Noble, D.G., Powney, G.D., Randle, Z., Warren, M.S. & Roy, D.B. (2015). The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2015. Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wareham, Dorset.
  4. Fox, R., Warren, M.S., and Brereton, T.M. (2010). A new Red List of British Butterflies, Species Status 12; 1-32. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.