1 1/4-1 5/8" (32-41 mm). Male white above, female white or yellow. Orange patch near FW tip normally brilliant red-orange, sometimes paler; some populations have black and white barred tip and black margin outside orange patch; paler patch repeated on FW below. Marbling on HW below grass-green, loose and granular rather than in separate bars. Often some green on FW tip below and black at ends of HW veins above.
Desert Orangetip has banded marbling and paler orange tips with barred margins.
Egg yellow becoming deep orange, spindle-shaped. Caterpillar moss-green, stippled along side with white and darker green. Chrysalis resembles silvery-gray or brownish-green thorn. Many kinds of crucifers (Brassicaceae) acceptable as host plants
Occasionally 2 broods in central California; February-April and May-July. 1 brood elsewhere; March-July, depending upon latitude, altitude, temperature, and moisture.
Aspen woods and meadows in Rockies; elsewhere desert canyons and arid slopes, mountain roads, ridges, streamsides, alpine seeps, sea-level pastures, and hay fields; many kinds of sunny places.
Coastal SE. Alaska to Baja California, north and east to E. Rockies at mid-elevations.
The variable Sara Orangetip is nearly as successful as the introduced Cabbage White in its ability to exploit a wide diversity of habitats across a broad area. However, it cannot carry on summer and fall generations, the caterpillars being limited to flowers and seed pods for their food. In the far West, Sara flies over the deserts, near the seaside, and up to the alpine, but the Rocky Mountain race is restricted to cool mountain places where it lives in tight colonies.