Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan up to 4 inches. The upperside is dark brown to black with translucent whitish-green or yellowish-green patches. The underside is orange-brown with greenish patches. The hindwing has a short tail. The winter form is larger, with black marks inside the orange marginal band on the underside. The summer form is smaller and has silver marks. The caterpillar has a slender black body with two long, black branched spines on the head and many black-tipped orange spines along the back. The chrysalis is green.
Southern Florida and southern Texas; Mexico, West Indies, Central America, South America south to Brazil; populations in Florida have become established since the 1960s.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Rare strays in Central Florida September-December; locally common in South Florida all year; rare strays in the Florida Keys January-July, October-December. Caterpillars present throughout the year.
Hammocks; overgrown mango, avocado, and citrus groves; and shrubby disurbed areas.
Two to three broods during the summer; one brood of the winter form hibernates. The green eggs are laid singly on the flower bracts and leaves of host plants.
These butterflies may feed throughout the day, sometimes flying high into the canopy. Adults roost together under the leaves of low shrubs.
Caterpillars feed on the leaves of host plants and rest beneath them. Larval host plants include the native Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis) and the naturalized green shrimpplant (Ruellia blechum). Adults feed primarily on rotting fruit; they also may feed on bird droppings and nectar from vines, trees and herbaceous plants.