Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Melitaea leanira C. Felder & R. Felder 1860. Type locality: California [restricted to: “Hwy 70 at Chambers Creek, North Fork Feather River Canyon, 1850' elev., Plumas County, California” by J. Emmel et al. (1998), Syst. W. N. Am. Butts. (5): 89]
Thessalia leanira (C. Felder & R. Felder)
Chlosyne leanira (C. Felder & R. Felder)
Melitaea leanira daviesi Wind 1947. Type locality: Strawberry Lake, Tuolumne County, California, el. 5500 ft [based on locality, not distinct from ssp. leanira]
Several subspecies have been named, some of debated distinctness. Those from northwest tend to average darkest, often appearing black with white dots above, while those from drier climates to east and south are lighter with more orange above. Names below are only given in the combinations originally published, all have since been treated as subspecies of Chlosyne (subgenus or genus Thessalia) leanira.
Melitaea leanira var. obsoleta Henry Edwards, 1877. Type locality: Near San Rafael, in Marin County [like ssp. leanira, but was distinguished by reduction in dark ventral markings; based on location, should include Melitaea leona W. G. Wright 1905 also from San Rafael, California]
Melitaea alma Strecker . Type locality: Arizona & s. Utah [lectotype is labeled "Arizona" - presumed to likely be from near St. George; a second type specimen was from southern Utah. Based on various lines of rationalization and logic, other areas in the Mojave Desert have been suggested as the true type locality.] Generally rather pale and predominantly orange above. Represents the species as found across much of the Great Basin and Mojave Desert.
Melitaea wrightii W. H. Edwards 1886. Type locality: San Bernardino, California [includes Melitaea cerita W. G. Wright 1905, from "Southern California"]. Dark, much like ssp. leanira, but usually with increased orange markings above; more southern.
Chlosyne (Thessalia) leanira oregonensis Bauer 1975. Type locality: Mt. Ashland, Loop Road, Jackson Co., Oregon. Represents the northwesternmost, darkest, and least orange extreme of the species, though not very different from ssp. leanira.
Thessalia leanira austrina Austin & Smith 1998. Type locality: 53 miles south of Catavina, Baja California Norte. Represents the southernmost, and lightest / most orange pale extreme of the species near the coast; is similar to alma.
Thessalia leanira basinensis Austin & M. Smith, 1998. Type locality: Sweetwater Mountains, State Route 338, 1 ml. ne. California state line, Lyon County, Nevada 1825 m [from northwestern Great Basin; similar to alma]
Thessalia leanira elegans Priestaf & J. Emmel 1998. Type locality: Oso Flaco Sand Dunes, San Luis Obispo County, California. [similar to ssp. wrightii]
Thessalia leanira flavodorsalis Austin & Smith 1998. Type locality: San Juan County, Utah [from Colorado Plateaus; similar to alma].
Thessalia leanira nebularum Austin & M. Smith 1998. Type locality: Highland Way, 3 - 4 road miles se. of Soquel to San Jose road, Santa Cruz County, California [distinction from ssp. leanira is dubious; some individuals in this area approach ssp. wrightii]
White stripes on the back of the abdomen distinguish this from Chalcedon Checkerspot (which has white spots on the back of the abdomen). Also, the underside coloration is quite different.
From very similar C. fulvia & cyneus (which displace it to the east), it differs in having orange palpi, and often distinctly orange antenna clubs (sometimes most of the antenna is orange), and in more often having dark markings (besides the veins) in the basal half of the hind wings. C. fulvia normally has orange coloring on the upper abdomen.
May intergrade with C. fulvia in Colorado Plateaus in sw. Colorado, northernmost Arizona and southernmost Utah, but this is still debated, and not well substantiated either way.
Oregon, California, and Baja California to southern Idaho and western Colorado, including Great Basin and Mojave Desert. In Colorado Plateaus occurs mostly north of Arizona (west of Colorado R.) & north of Abajo and San Juan Mountains (east of Colorado R.), and is replaced by C. fulvia southward. Except for Mojave Desert portion, is mostly absent from Arizona.
Larvae feed on Paintbrush (Castilleja spp)
Hibernates as third-stage larva.
Common Butterflies of California(1)