Medium sized butterfly measuring up to 3" in length. The upperside is red-orange in color with black spots. The summer form is mostly black with a short tail and the winter form has much more orange and a longer, violet-tipped tail. The underside is light brown with a pearly white question mark in center. When resting, it resembles a dead leaf. The caterpillar is black or gray with orange and cream spots and stripes and multiple rows of spines.
North America, West Indies, Central America, South America
Hardwood swamps and hammocks, city parks, and urban areas.
Green eggs are laid singly or on top of each other in small clusters under leaves of plants that are usually not the hosts.
Males are territorial.
Caterpillars feed on leaves of host plants. Larval host plants include the native trees American elm (Ulmus americana) and sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) and native herb false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica). Adults feed on soil, rotting fruit, dung, carrion, and tree sap and only when these are not available will they take nectar.