Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan to 3-3/8 inches. The male is white with a black zigzag pattern on the outer margin of the forewing. The female is grayish-white to gray with a black border on the forewing and a black cell spot. The underside of the hindwing is whitish-yellow in males and grayish in females. The clubs on the antennae are turquoise in both sexes. The caterpillar has a yellowish-brown head, five long yellow stripes, and numerous small black spots with many small hairs; there are short tails on the posterior end. The chrysalis is white with black markings.
Southern United States, West Indies, Mexico, Central America and South America; strays into the northern United States.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Three or more broods per year. Uncommon in North Florida March-October; common in Central Florida March-November; abundant all year in South Florida and the Keys.
Coastal uplands, salt marshes, beaches, roadsides, open, disturbed sites and gardens.
The yellow, spindle-shaped eggs are laid singly or in small clusters on the upper surface of host plant leaves.
This species sometimes has large population outbreaks that spread throughout its range. Dark females are more common in coastal areas in the summer and fall.
Native larval host plants include the cultivated shrubs limber caper (Cynophalia flexuosa) and saltwort (Batis maritima), the wildflower coastal searocket (Cakile lanceolata) and the weedy poor-man's-pepper (Lepidium virginicum). Native nectar plants include the cultivated tree black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), the cultivated shrubs baycedar (Suriana maritima), Christmasberry (Lycium carolinianum), Florida Keys blackbead (Pithecellobium keyense), green sea-oxeye-daisy (Borrichia arborescens), shiny-leaved wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa), silver sea-oxeye-daisy (Borrichia frutescens), Spanish-bayonet (Yucca aloifolia) and wild-sage (Lantana involucrata), the cultivated wildflowers blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), narrowleaf yellowtops (Flaveria linearis), scorpionstail (Heliotropium angiospermum) and yellow joyweed (Alternanthera flavescens), the cultivated vine yellowroot (Morinda royoc) and the weedy Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata). Other native nectar plants include goatweed (Capraria biflora) and seaside heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum).