Butterfly iwth bright orange tips to its wings, and a mottled green pattern underneath

Orange Tip male. Photo: Brian Arnold.

One of the real signs that spring is arriving is the appearance of the Orange Tip. The male is unmistakable.

Where to see

Habitat: Often in damper places, but also along the bottom of hedgerows, depending on the food plant it is choosing for its caterpillars. Also in gardens.

Caterpillar foodplants: Mainly Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine Pratensis) in damp areas and Garlic Mustard at the foot of hedges. Also uses Hedge Mustard, Charlock, Winter Cress and a few others. In gardens will use Sweet Rocket (Hesperis Matronalis) and Honesty.

Best places: Widespread. Our butterfly monitoring walks record high numbers at Stubhampton Bottom (North Dorset); Moors Valley Country Park (East Dorset); Tadnoll (South Dorset) and Kingcombe (West Dorset).

Distribution map

Explore the Atlas to see historical distribution trends for this species.

When to see

Mainly out in April and May, but sometimes as early as March and going on into June or early July

Sightings by month (last 5 years)*:

Sightings this year*:

Browse the sightings archive.


Size: Medium

The male is unmistakable, with the bright orange tips to its wings, which show on both sides of the upper wing, so they can be distinguished in flight. Its hind underwings are a mottled green.

The female has grey wingtips with the same mottled green underwings as the male, which are the best way to tell her apart from the Small White or Green-veined White. On her upper forewing she has a central black spot, which is not found on these other whites.

The time of year you are seeing the butterfly can also be a useful guide – if it is after July, it is not an Orange Tip.

Photo gallery

Tip: Click thumbnails to view full-size images.

*Note: The charts shown on this page are drawn only from casual sightings submitted to this website. Records from this website will be added to a lot more data collected throughout the year and used to compile the five-yearly Butterfly Atlases for Dorset and the UK.

Find more Orange Tip related content, including news and photos.