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Great Spangled Fritillary

Scientific name: Nymphalidea speyeria

This large showy butterfly will visit your garden if you have the right plants! It loves to visit native plants such as joe-pye and milkweed, but also will be found on many other flowers such as butterfly bush, lilacs, purple cone flower, and mountain laurel.

Its unique coloration of brown and orange with black crescents is sure to catch your eye. When its wings are closed, you will see two silver spots which help to camouflage this butterfly when it is at rest.

Refer to this Guide developed by Westchester County to learn about what to plant in your own garden to attract birds and butterflies.



It's wingspan is 3 1/5 to 4 1/2 inches, making it a large butterfly!

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Nectar from many different flowers.


Meadow and woodland edge. The butterfly will be found where it can nectar on plants, so you might well see them in your own garden!

Life Cycle

This butterfly has a fascinating life cycle. They mate in June and July. The female will lay her eggs near violets in August or September. The eggs will hatch, but the caterpillars will then sleep for the winter. For this reason, its important that these areas are not “cleaned up” in the fall. In the spring, upon awakening, the young caterpillar will eat the new tender leaves of the violet.

Why violets? This butterfly requires native violet plants to reproduce. This is referred to as the “host plant”. The caterpillar can only eat violet leaves.


This butterfly does not migrate. See above.

Ecosystem Connections

The caterpillar and butterfly are part of the diet for other living things, such as birds and insects. The butterfly helps to pollinate plants.

Similar Species

There are many varieties of this butterfly, but this is the one most commonly seen locally. To learn more click here

How You Can Help

Why not plant some native violets on the edge of your yard in an area that will not be disturbed (mowed or raked)? Invite these beautiful pollinators to your own garden.

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