E-Fauna BC Home

Anthocharis julia alaskensis Boisduval, Rambur, Duméril & Graslin, [1833]
Sara's Orangetip
Family: Pieridae (Whites, Marbles, and Sulphurs)
Species account authors: Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard.
Extracted from Butterflies of British Columbia.
Introduction to the Butterflies of BC
The Families of Lepidoptera of BC


© Norbert Kondla     (Photo ID #5675)


Click on map to view a larger version of this map.
Distribution of Anthocharis julia alaskensis in British Columbia.
(Click on the map to view a larger version.)
Source: Butterflies of British Columbia by Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard © Royal BC Museum

Species Information


Sara's Orangetips are small white (males, some females) or yellow (most females) butterflies with orange wing tips.ln males, the black bar across the base of the orange wing tip is straight and usually strongly black across the entire wing. The ventral hindwing marbling is grey or green, and is usually found in crisply defined patches. Populations near the ocean have many white females; further from the ocean most of the females are yellow and only a few are white. Males or females usually have a row of black spots along the margin of the dorsal hindwing.

Immature Stages

Eggs are pale green when laid, but turn bright orange after a day. Third to fifth instar larvae of subspecies flora are medium green, shading to lighter green down the sides to white lateral stripes. Below the white lateral stripe there is a dark green line that is obvious only when the larva is newly moulted; below that they are dark green on the underside. The spiracles are grey green and centred in the white lateral stripe. There is a sparse covering of hairs, with a black spot at the base of each hair. Most hairs are short and non-secretory; a few are longer, blacker, and thicker, have a larger black spot at the base, and are secretory. Pupae are long and thin, and are light brown to dark green (CSG).


Subspecies flora W.G. Wright, 1892 nec 1905 authors (TL: Tenino, WA [Tilden 1975]) occurs in southern coastal BC. The ventral hindwing veins are orange yellow; the marbling on the underside of the wings is dark green or occasionally grey (lighter further from the ocean); and females are white, partly yellow, or completely yellow. Subspecies alaskensis Gunder, 1932 (TL: Skagway, AK) occurs in the Coast Range of northwestern BC, east to Atlin. The ventral hindwing veins are orange, the marbling is grey green, and females are usually white but occasionally yellow.

Genus Description

The name Anthocharis is derived from the Greek anthos (flower) and kharis (grace), either because the butterflies have the grace of a flower or because they lend grace to the flowers they frequent (Emmet 1991). The common name "The Orange-tip" was first used for A. cardamines (Linnaeus) in Britain in 1747-49 (Emmet 1990a). The name was later extended to the entire genus, and was first used for the genus in North America by Scudder (1875). The common name refers to the orange or yellow apex of the dorsal forewings of most species in the genus.

Orangetips are similar to marbles, but the tips of the forewings are orange in most species. Male orangetips are usually white, occasionally pale yellow, with black and red orange markings. Females range from white to rich yellow, with black and pale orange markings. There are about 18 species in the genus.

Two species of orangetips occur in BC, as suggested by Layberry et al. (1998). Research in California (Geiger and Shapiro 1986) showed that what has traditionally been treated as the species Anthocharis sara is actually a group of closely related species. Their electrophoretic data indicated that three "subspecies" of Sara's Orangetip are all separate species, Anthocharis sara Lucas, 1852; A. stella W.H. Edwards, 1879; and A. julia W.H. Edwards, 1872. Opler (1999) recognizes a fourth species in this group, Anthocharis thoosa (Scudder, 1878).

Two of these four species occur in BC: Sara's Orangetip (Anthocharis sara) on the coast and Stella's Orangetip (Anthocharis stella) in the interior. They occur nearly sympatrically on the west side of the Cascade Mountains on Mount Cheam, west of Hope. Sara's Orangetip occurs at the bottom of the mountain in the coastal forest, and Stella's Orangetip occurs in the alpine. More sampling is required to determine whether they occur together in any habitat.


Sara's Orangetips have one generation each year, and fly from March to May at low elevations in the south. In the north they fly in June, and in the mountains of Vancouver Island in July and August. Eggs are laid on the leaves, stems, and buds of Arabis in California (Shapiro 1981a, 1981b) and BC. Young larvae feed on leaves, but older larvae prefer flowers and fruits in both California and BC. Many pupae in some Californian populations diapause over two or more winters (Edwards 1887-97), apparently to provide insurance against population extinction caused by a single catastrophic drought season (Shapiro 1981b). Pupae from coastal BC seldom, if ever, diapause more than one winter (CSG), possibly because the environment is more predictably moist than in California. In California the nominate subspecies has a partial second generation when there has been a wet spring (Evans 1975), but subspecies flora is always univoltine.

Larval foodplants include Arabis glabra in the area of Victoria, BC (Jones 1935; J.B. Tatum, pers. comm.; CSG; GAH) and Arabis drummondii at Silverhope Creek near Hope (ACJ). Various Brassicaceae are used elsewhere, including Arabis sparsiflora, Barbarea vulgaris, Brassica kaber, Descurainia, and Sisymbrium officinale (Opler 1967a) .


Sara's Orangetips inhabit forest openings, rock slopes, and cliffs from sea level to subalpine habitats. They prefer partly wooded or brushy areas to completely open meadows. They occur along coastal BC, north to the Yukon in the Coast Range.



From YT south to Baja California west of the coastal mountain ranges of BC and the Cascade and Sierra Mountains of the USA.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)

BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

General References