Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
First described in 1852 by Hippolyte Lucas
as Anthocharis Sara
Anthocharis sara Lucas, 1852. Type locality: “Californie” [Defined as “Queen Lily Campground, near Belden, North Fork Feather River, 2400' elev., Plumas County, California” by J. Emmel et al. (1998), Systematics of Western North American Butterflies (3): 79]
Explanation of Names
For the present time, most authors consider members of the "Sara Complex" as one species, and the various subspecies do seem to intergrade where they meet, though sometimes it appears more as if two distinct species are producing a few hybrids. Currently there is a trend toward separating southwestern populations as a species - A. thoosa
, with underside marbling less greenish and more gray looking, and to separate inland populations further north as a species - A. julia
, which is highly variable, but quite similar to more coastal A. sara
. There are differences in immature stages that tend to support this division, but whether the distinctions are enough to call them true biological species can be debated. For the time being the classification used at the 'Butterflies of America'
web site, and in Jonathan Pelham's Catalogue
is followed here.
If divided as outlined above, the following will be the probable arrangement of the subspecies.
Anthocharis thoosa, including: alaskensis, browningi, flora, prestonorum, sulfuris & stella
Anthocharis sara including: pseudothoosa & sempervirens
Anthocharis thoosa, including: colorado & inghami
Where found in the same areas as 'Desert Orangetip' (Anthocharis cethura), that species has prominent pale (usually white) spots along the margin of the upper front wing, clearly dividing the dark border from the edge of the wing, while in A. sara such spots are narrow (i.e. in many females) or barely evident at all, and the dark border right along the edge. On the under side A. cethura has the greenish marbling on the hind wing merged onto relatively broad well-defined bands, while in A. sara the marbling is finer and more evenly spread across the wing (and in the area where the species are together, usually less greenish). In A. cethura the males in commonly decidedly yellowish, and always so in many populations; while in A. sara, yellow males are rare.
Wide-ranging, mostly in mountainous regions, west from the Plains and south of the Arctic. Southern limits are in northern Mexico.
Varied, mostly found in areas of broken terrain, often in canyons, open woodlands, and riparian areas.
Late winter through sping, with timing depending primarily on elevation and latitude. One brood in most regions, but sometimes apparently with two flights near southern Pacific coast (probably not two broods, but more likely with some emerging early and others delayed; perhaps depending on rains and temperatures?).
Larvae feed on mustard family (Brassicaceae), esp. Tower Mustard, Arabis glabra.