White-letter hairstreak butterfly sitting with wingsv folded showing the white 'W' on light brown underwings


A butterfly species that has been getting rarer and rarer for 40 years has recently been rediscovered in Lambeth. Could it be making a comeback?

The UK charity Butterfly Conservation recently surveyed Lambeth’s butterflies and reported finding White-letter Hairstreak (WLH) butterflies at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Lambeth Parks Team planted a new kind of Dutch Elm Disease resistant ‘New Horizon’ elms there about 10 years ago as part of a landscaping improvement scheme. Butterfly Conservation now think the butterflies may be using them as a food plant. This is possibly the first time ever that’s been recorded.

Elm disease drove butterflies into decline

The White-letter Hairstreak (WLH) butterfly is named after the zig-zag lines on the underside of its wings that look like a W (see photo above). It’s been a rarer and rarer sight over the last four decades. Its caterpillars feed only on elm. Since Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s the number of UK elm trees has gone down more than 30 million – taking butterfly numbers down to 5% of 40 years ago. The WLH is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Looking in the treetops

Butterfly Conservation plan to return with a cherry picker to go up and look in the elm trees at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens for eggs and caterpillars to check if the butterflies have created a successful breeding ground.

Simon Saville, Butterfly Conservation Branch Chair says: “We are excited to have the elusive White-letter Hairstreak in Vauxhall. It is important to know that it can thrive in urban landscapes – it is also at Nine Elms and The Rookery in Streatham Common. This shows that there is nature under our noses, even in city parks”.

·         For more about Lambeth Landscape’s work to preserve and improve the environment for people and for native species of wildlife, please see their information pages

·         Butterfly Conservation have mapped where White-letter Hairstreaks and disease-resistant elms are found. For a map of the north Surrey area, including Lambeth, see their information pages

·         Butterfly Conservation are also developing a project to look at what species live where in inner London boroughs like Lambeth, with the aim of getting more people to look at what’s in the green spaces found in the city. They hope to run “Big City Butterflies – Discovering London’s Butterflies and Moths” from 2019. For information about the project email Butterfly Conservation. Written by: Butterfly Conservation (Source: Lambeth council’s Love Lambeth website)


Croydon have begun to plant 700 extra trees on the borough’s streets each year until 2023 as part of a drive to improve local air quality.

Priority will be given to areas with existing poor air quality with the first three new trees planted  in Norwich Road, Thornton Heath. Around another 250 will be planted within the coming months, and the remainder of this year’s batch, each of which will start at around three metres high, will be placed next winter.

Each new tree planted as part of this programme will help to reduce the local environment’s levels of harmful pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide by trapping toxins on the surfaces of their leaves, said a council spokesperson.

The £180,000 yearly planting programme will include trees such as cherry, plane, maple and other ornamental species, with a particular focus on introducing more trees in northern and central wards with higher pollution levels. Other tree locations that will be considered include road junctions across the borough with higher pollution levels, as well as sites requested by local councillors and residents.

The council have also appointed a new tree planting officer, whose job will involve co-ordinating where to put the 3,500 new trees, from main roads to residential streets, as well as maintaining and keeping them healthy. Croydon has around 32,000 trees on local streets alone, ranging from maple and birch to pear and lime trees.

The council invested in the new trees budget as part of an overall £1 million drive to meet the borough’s latest five-year air quality action plan that was approved in November. This also includes cutting the use of diesel engines on Croydon’s streets among council staff and private businesses, more electric car charging points, and continuing the Clean Air 4 Schools project.

Local councillors and residents in South Norwood recently planted 25 new trees in Enmore Road that was part-funded by a £5,000 Greener City Fund grant from the Mayor of London. (Source: Croydon council press release)


Croydon council have announced plans to give every household in the borough up to three free bulky waste collections each year.

Currently residents pay the council £10 every time they want up to seven items of bulky waste to be disposed of, from bed frames to washing machines. Collecting eight to 14 items costs householders £20 a time.

Now the council plan to make three of these collections free of charge per property per year.

The council say they are introducing the measure as part of its Don’t Mess With Croydon – Take Pride clampdown against fly-tipping. Of almost 200 successful prosecutions under the clampdown since 2015, several involved offenders who had dumped bulky waste such as furniture. White goods are also fly-tipped in Croydon by offenders dodging a paid-for collection, including one incident caught on camera involving two men fly-tipping a fridge.

The three free collections can be for up to two bulky waste collections, and one white goods collection for items like fridges or dishwashers. The council plans to introduce the new measure by this summer.

To qualify for these free collections, residents will have to sign up online to the council’s bulky waste service via My Account. This will help the council to assess which households still qualify for free collections and which have used their allowance and need to pay.

Having a more detailed register of bulky waste collections is also expected to make it even easier for staff to investigate large fly-tips, said a council spokesperson.

The council has separate arrangements and costs for people getting rid of commercial waste in the borough.(Source: Croydon council press release)


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