Residents of Buckinghamshire are being asked to help stop the rapid decline of a nationally scarce moth by planting a special type of flower in their gardens.

Butterfly Conservation’s Upper Thames Branch is seriously concerned about the low numbers of the Striped Lychnis.

This elusive, night-flying moth was once abundant in this part of the country, but it’s thought the gradual disappearance of its foodplant, Dark Mullein, may be to blame.

The Striped Lychnis feeds almost exclusively on Dark Mullein, a tall biennial or short-lived perennial. The plant used to be a more common sight on countryside road verges and field margins, but changes to land management has seen large numbers disappear.

Butterfly Conservation Upper Thames are asking people to collect free seeds from them to plant in gardens, allotments or school grounds in the hope it will help reverse the decline of this rare moth.

Nick Bowles, chairman of the branch, said: “Getting people to plant more Dark Mullein could really help increase numbers of this rare moth. It is a harmless pollinator and it would be terribly sad to see it disappear completely.

“The plant itself is pretty with silvery-green leaves and bright yellow flowers, which bloom from June until September.

“It isn’t poisonous, has no thorns and is also a good nectar source for a wide range of other insects, including bees.

“If you manage to attract the Striped Lychnis moth, you don’t need to worry about it eating anything else. Many birds such as finches will also eat the numerous small seeds the plant produces.”

The society adds that people wrongly believe all moths feed on clothes, when in fact only two species do this regularly.

The wings of the Striped Lychnis are decorated with a series of light and dark brown stripes - the perfect camouflage for resting on branches or against tree trunks. Its caterpillar is more strikingly coloured in comparison, boasting a series of black and yellow splodges against a pale, greenish-yellow body.

Free seeds are being handed out at a conservation work party on Sunday at the Holtspur Bottom Reserve, between High Wycombe and Beaconsfield.

Mr Bowles added: “We’re always looking for more help with maintaining these sites, but even if you don’t want to volunteer, you’re welcome to stop by and collect some Dark Mullein seeds.

“We’re hoping to get as many people as possible planting them all over the Upper Thames area, but particularly around the Holtspur Reserve and gardens situated between High Wycombe, Stokenchurch and Wendover.

“Sometime in May we will also be asking people to return a few of the ones they’ve grown, so we can re-plant them at reserve.”

If you would like to go to the conservation work party this coming Sunday, please contact Nick Bowles on 01442 382276.