Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan up to 3-1/8 inches. The upperside of the wings is tawny orange, with thick dark veins and black spots near the margin. The margin of the hindwing is angled and slightly scalloped; the underside has a mottled pattern, no silver spots, and a pale, wide postmedian band. The slender, shiny caterpillar is orange with black lines, white spots, a black head with orange patches, a pair of long black horns at the front, and rows of long, bluish-black, branched spines. The chrysalis is silver-colored with gold-colored projections.
North America, the West Indies, Mexico, Central America and South America.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Common in West Florida April-December; uncommon in North Florida March-early November; rare to uncommon all year in South Florida and the Keys.
Open areas, including sandhills, prairies, fields and disturbed sites.
Three or more broods per year; four broods in Florida. The pale green eggs are laid singly on the stems and young leaves of the host plants.
These butterflies fly rapidly close to the ground are are difficult to approach. Males may fly short distances over flat, dry areas.
Caterpillars feed on the young leaves and flowers of host plants. Larval host plants include the native wildflowers Florida yellow flax (Linum floridanum) and violets (Viola spp.), the herb common moonseed (Menispermum canadense) and the vines climbing dogbane (Thyrantella difformis) and maypop (Passiflora incarnata). Caterpillars also feed on the herb purslane (Portulaca oleracea), which may not be native. Native nectar plants include the wildflowers blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). Weedy nectar plants include the native wildflower Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata) and the herb red clover (Trifolium pratense), which is naturalized.