Explanation of Names
GRACILIS: from "gracile", meaning slender or gracefully slender; probably a reference to the slender silver "comma" mark on the underside of the hindwing
uncommon to rare in the east; usually common in the west
Adult: eastern subspecies best distinguished by dark inner part of underside of wings, contrasting strongly with gray, "hoary" outer part; hindwing upperside with bright yellow spots in dark wing margin; silver comma on underside of hindwing thin and pointed at both ends
Larva: dark brown with reddish dorsal streaks and spines on front half of body, and whitish dorsal patches and spines on rear half
Alaska (south of the tundra) to Nunavut and Labrador, south in the east to New England, and south in the west to California and New Mexico
forest openings and edges, woodland streamsides, brushlands from foothills to treeline in mountains in the south; boreal forest south of the tundra in the north
adults found in spring until June have overwintered; the new generation flies from July to September, then overwinters
Larvae feed on currant and gooseberry (Ribes spp.), elm, Mock Azalea (Menziesia glabella), and Western Azalea (Rhododendron occidentale).
Adults sometimes take nectar from flowers such as aster and everlasting (Gnaphalium spp.), unlike other members of this genus.
one generation per year; overwinters as an adult; adult females emerge in spring and lay eggs until June, then die
Subspecies P. g. zephyrus (until recently considered a separate species by most authors) has a western distribution from southern British Columbia, Alberta, and the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan, south to California and New Mexico. The underside of its wings are dark silvery-gray, showing less contrast than in the eastern subspecies P. g. gracilis
The nominate subspecies (P. g. gracilis) occurs in the east from Manitoba to Labrador and Nova Scotia, south to New England states. The underside of its wings are dark brown in the basal half, contrasting sharply with the hoary gray outer half.
An unnamed intermediate form occurs from Alaska to Nunavut, south to Manitoba and central British Columbia, where it intergrades with subspecies zephyrus. Its wings are grayish-brown beneath with a moderate line of contrast separating the two halves.
Lacks central spot on upperside of hindwing, present in Green and Satyr Commas. (1)
Gray Comma lacks contrast between basal and outer halves of underside of both wings
Butterflies of North America; USGS
(live adult images by Paul Opler, plus US distribution map, description, biology, food plants, seasonality, etc.)
Butterflies of Canada; CBIF
(pinned adult images plus description, subspecies, distribution, biology, food plants, seasonality, etc.)