LRP - Licenses

LRP - Regulations

LRP - Permits

Recreation - Statewide

Recreation - Trapping

Recreation - Fishing

Recreation - Hunting

Env. Protection - Management

Env. Protection - Emergency

Env. Protection - Resources

To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.

Share your observations

Share your observations of plants or non-game animals with the Natural Heritage Inventory.

Rare animals
Find rare and non-game animals.
Rare plants
Learn about plants on the Natural Heritage Working List.
Rare lichens
Discover Wisconsin's lichens.
Natural communities
Explore Wisconsin's natural communities.
Other features
Discover unique resources.
Eagle license plate

Help care for rare plants and animals by ordering an Endangered Resources plate.

Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist

West Virginia White (Pieris virginiensis)



West Virginia White ( Pieris virginiensis ), a State Special Concern butterfly. This species is very local in rich, deciduous northern forest primarily of beech and sugar maple. Its host plant is toothwort, Dentaria (now Cardamine) diphylla, perhaps D. maxima. This is a univoltine species, adults have been observed from mid-May into the first week of June. Eggs are laid singly on the undersides of leaves and hatch in May and complete development by the beginning of June when they pupate and enter diapause until the following spring.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for West Virginia White (Pieris virginiensis). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Pieris virginiensis in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/N
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3
Global RankG3?
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Identification: All white butterfly with no black spots. Length about 1.5 inches across the wings. The underside hindwing is white with veins colored a diffuse gray-brown.

Similar Species: The Spring form of the mustard white, Pieris napi, is very similar but the underside of P. napi has dark veins and there is a trace of yellow to the ground color. These two species are very difficult to separate and location must be considered.

Habitat: Very local in rich, deciduous forest.

Host Plant: Toothwort, Dentaria (now Cardamine) diphylla, perhaps D. maxima, but does not appear to use the most common Dentaria laciniata in Wisconsin.

State Distribution: Northeastern, north central counties, primarily in the range of Dentaria diphylla.

Global Distribution: Ontario to New England and south to Virginia.

Rationale for Species Listing and Threats: Contributing factors to population survival include early senescence of the foodplant before caterpillars are fully developed, poor weather conditions in the early Spring for oviposition, patchy distribution of foodplants in the forest, viral contamination of eggs, and the reluctance of the species to disperse across open fields (Cappuccino and Kareiva, 1985).

Phenology: May 12 to June 3 adults collected in Wisconsin.

Life and Natural History: Univoltine with adults emerging from overwintered pupae when leaves and flower stalks of Dentaria appear in early April. Eggs are laid singly on the undersides of leaves and hatch in May. The first three instar larvae feed on the underside or leaves and edges, instars 4 and 5 feed mostly on the top of the leaves and complete development by the beginning of June when they pupate and enter diapause until Spring. Adults emerge in the early Spring and are short-lived such that mating, egg-laying, and larval development must occur before senescence of the foodplants. Weather that delays adult emergence relative to the flowering of the foodplants by as little as five days may lead to loss of larvae when the plants senesce before the larvae are old enough to become mobile and wander to find secondary foodplants.



West Virginia White

West virgina white butterfly. The host plants of this species are toothworts (Dentaria spp.) who can be outcompeted by garlic mustard, a non-native invasive plant.

Photo © Mike Reese.

West Virginia White

Photo © Mike Reese.

West Virginia White

Photo © Mike Reese.

Last revised: Thursday, January 10, 2019