Phoebis sennae marcellina

Cloudless sulphur

Before I ever grew Cassia shrubs in my backyard, I don't remember ever seeing these and thought they were something rare. Then I began planting Cassia shrubs in my yard, and learned they are anything but rare. In fact, what's rare is walking into my garden and not seeing them. They are a great butterfly to raise in the southern California suburbs, and one can watch the entire life cycle easily. As illustrated here, the larvae have a couple of forms but can be quite beautiful in the green form, and the chrysalises, which have several color varieties, are something to behold. Males are yellow, and females vary from yellow to nearly white, with markings on the underside of the wing that vary in boldness. An obvious native choice for this butterfly would be Senna armata, which does well in the deserts. I have seeds, but haven't tried it yet.

Not surprisingly, this common and widespread species was named long ago: Pieter Cramer is the author, from a 1777 work, based on a specimen apparently from Suriname ("These are found in Suriname").

Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur
A female in the morning on a rainy weekend. Usually these hardly stay still, so it was nice to have one posing for me. Long Beach, December 1, 2012.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur
A male Cloudless Sulphur in my garden in Long Beach. December 3, 2012.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur
A female Cloudless Sulphur ovipositing on a Cassia tree I planted for this purpose in my garden. October 21, 2006.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur
Male Cloudless Sulphur at Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona, September 25, 2007.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur
Egg of a Cloudless Sulphur on Cassia tree in my backyard. July 23, 2020.
Egg of Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur larva
Another egg in my garden. July 23, 2020.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur larva
This one is farther along, though still pretty small. I kept a new plant in its pot and put that in a water basin "moat" to keep the ants out, and this one is doing well. November 26, 2008.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur larva
Now that this little tree is more mature, the Cloudless Sulphur caterpillars have had a better chance of outlasting the ants, as this one has. I find this to be the typical form of the mature larva: yellow with a brown marking at each segment. October 22, 2009.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur larva green form
This is the green form of the Cloudless Sulphur larva. My garden in Long Beach, March 9, 2013.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur pupa
I finally found a pupa on the tree. This is a pretty new chrysalis. July 9, 2011.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur pupa
A couple of days later the same Cloudless Sulphur pupa has turned green.
Phoebis sennae marcellina - Cloudless Sulphur pupa
A pre-pupa Cloudless Sulphur silked up and ready to go; then three days later, on a vine in my backyard. October 23 and 26, 2012. Note the very different colors of this chrysalis as opposed to the one above. Color can vary based on the lightness/darkness of nearby objects.

©Dennis Walker