Meet the Sara Orange-tip


The Sara orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis sara) is one of the first butterflies we see in our region, in late winter/early spring. During the cool season in the desert, wild mustards are growing, some of which are larval food plants for this species. The Tucson Mountains populations of this species are especially flushed with yellow markings in their wings.

The preferred native larval food plant in our region is the Arizona jewelflower (Streptanthus carinatus) which makes addition to your wildflower plantings. But they use several other species in the Brassicaceae (mustard family), including some introduced exotics.

Adults feed on many of the same plants they use as larval food plants. Even in the driest years, the plants in the mustard family will bloom. During their short flight season (which is late winter through spring) males patrol, mostly in valleys, for females. Eggs are laid singly near tops of host plants. Young caterpillars feed on flower buds, older ones on flowers and fruits of their host plants.

The Arizona jewelflower, Streptanthus carinatus

The Arizona jewelflower, Streptanthus carinatus

The Arizona jewelflower is an annual wildflower found all throughout the borderlands in Arizona and New Mexico. Flower colors range from white to yellow to orange. They are cool-season annuals that bloom early in the late winter and early spring. Easy to grow from seed or plant, they readily reseed if you resist the urge to “clean them up”. There are two subspecies in our region: subsp. arizonicus and subsp. carinatus. Subspecies. arizonicus is distinguished by having whitish to yellowish sepals, with more entire basal leaves; it ranges from 1,500-4,500 feet in elevation, mostly in Arizona. Subspecies carinatus is distinguished by having yellow flowers, pinnatifid basal leaves, and acute oblong cauline leaves; it ranges from 4,000-6,500 ft and ranges east across New Mexico and into Texas.

Katherine Gierlach