Male. © Peter J. Bryant.

Sara Orangetip

Anthocharis sara

Lepidoptera: Pieridae

Back to Butterflies of Orange County, California
Back to Arthropods of Orange County, California
Back to Natural History of Orange County, California



Male. Irvine Regional Park, Orange, Orange County, CA. 4-23-10. © Ron Hemberger

Male. Irvine Regional Park, Orange, Orange County, CA. 4-23-10. © Ron Hemberger

Male. Donna O'Neil Land Conservancy, San Juan Capistrano, Orange County, CA. 5-27-06. © Ron Hemberger

Male, snagged by a crab spider on wild hyacinth. Ortega loop, 4-4-12. © Robert Gorman

Subspecies sara. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Irvine Regional Park, Orange, Orange County, CA. 4-14-08. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Thomas E. Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, Orange County, CA. 2-28-09. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Thomas E. Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, Orange County, CA. 6-6-06. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Nix Nature Center, Laguna Beach, Orange County, CA. 3-30-09. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Nix Nature Center, Laguna Beach, Orange County, CA. 3-30-09. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Nix Nature Center, Laguna Beach, Orange County, CA. 3-30-09. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Nix Nature Center, Laguna Beach, Orange County, CA. 3-30-09. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Irvine Regional Park, Orange, Orange County, CA. 4-14-08. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Irvine Regional Park, Orange, Orange County, CA. 4-14-08. © Ron Hemberger

Female. Thomas E. Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, Orange County, CA. 2-28-09. © Ron Hemberger

Courting pair. Thomas E. Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, Orange County, CA.
2-28-09. © Ron Hemberger

Female. San Onofre Beach, Orange County, CA. 2-01-09. © Peter J. Bryant.

Arabis sparsiflora var. californica. © Peter J. Bryant.


Female underside (Subspecies stella). © Peter J. Bryant.

Courting pair. Thomas E. Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, Orange County, CA.
2-28-09. © Ron Hemberger

Courting pair. Thomas E. Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, Orange County, CA.
2-28-09. © Ron Hemberger

Male, caught by a crab spider. San Juan Loop Trail, Ortega Oaks, Riverside County, CA. 4/4/12. © Robert Gorman

Male, caught by a crab spider. San Juan Loop Trail, Ortega Oaks, Riverside County, CA. 4/4/12. © Robert Gorman

Thomas E. Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, Orange County, CA. 2-7-06. © Ron Hemberger

Thomas E. Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, Orange County, CA. 2-7-06. © Ron Hemberger

Characteristics: A small butterfly, white on dorsal wing with orange spot on apical area of dorsal forewing. Ventral hindwing with green-black mottling on a cream-colored background. Forewing length: 17-24mm. The bright orange spot on the dorsal forewing is an excellent distinguishing feature.

Habitats, Behavior: This beautiful species is often encountered flying swiftly through the fields of mustard in our Orange County foothills. Any field of mustard in a relatively undisturbed area is usually a favorable habitat for sara.

Distribution: The Sara Orange-tip, although not distributed throughout Orange County, is common in many areas. Some localities for which we have records are as follows: Villa Park Dam, hills north of Irvine Park, O'Neill Park, in the canyons of the Santa Ana Mountains (lower elevations: Black Star, Silverado, Harding, Santiago, Trabuco, Holy Jim), San Joaquin Hills (Los Trancos and Moro Canyons, Buck Gully), Laguna Canyon, Corona del Mar, Doheny Park (old records only), Upper Newport Bay, and Fullerton. The butterfly is expected to occur in the Brea area, e. g. Firestone Scout Reservation, but is absent from higher elevations of the Santa Ana Mountains, due to the corresponding lack of larval foodplants. The Upper Newport Bay colony apparently was once quite large. Nearly all specimens in Theodore Hower's extensive series are from this locale. Few are seen there today, probably because of elimination of suitable habitat on the mesas overlooking the bay, and this population is probably near extinction.

Flight Period: There are two broods, the first flying from late January or February into April. The second brood emerges in late April or early May and flies into early June. An exceptionally early record is January 6, 1962 at Coal Canyon, recorded by Dr. J. McBurney (Anaheim).

Larval Foodplants: Plants of the family Cruciferae; specifically the rock cresses (Arabis spp.) are utilized. In Orange County, A. sparsifolia var. californica is probably used, a variety found occasionally in open spots in the coastal chaparral (Boughey, 1968); Brassica spp., Barbarea orthoceras, and Arabis glabra, all of which occur in Orange County, may be utilized.

Other Remarks: Several forms of this butterfly have been named; those females having a yellow suffusion are known as "stella" in old books while the first generation is generally referred to as form "reakirtii". This first brood differs from the second by its smaller size, darker "marbling" on the ventral hindwing, and by the black suffusion on the ends of the wing veins on the dorsal hindwing. Evans (1975) has shown that the production of the normal form (late spring brood) or form "reakirtii" (early spring brood) is a result of environmental factors acting upon the larvae. Perhaps during years (e.g., 1973) with unusually late rainfall, the normal form emerges very early in March with few "reakirtii" individuals flying in that year.

From Orsak, L. J. (1977). The Butterflies of Orange County, California. Center for Pathobiology Miscellaneous Publication #3.  University of California Press, New York.  349pp.

Return to Butterflies and their larval foodplants
Return to Natural History of Orange County, California