Native Species

Originally, it was thought that Pieris virginiensis only used one native plant host, the wildflower Cardamine (Dentaria) diphylla, or two leaved toothwort. This perennial is seen in moist forests and is distinguishable by its two basal leaves and beautiful white flowers. It blooms in April and is longer lived than some congeners (like cut-leaved toothwort, Cardamine (Dentaria laciniata) concatenata), though it still senesces before midsummer.

However, Pieris virginiensis actually uses several other native mustard plants, including cut-leaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), smooth rock cress (Boechera laevigata), and other assorted, ecologically relevant members of the Cardamine genus (e.g. Cardamine angustata).

Boechera (Arabis) laevigata, or smooth rock cress, is a relatively rare plant, itself, which occupies low-nutrient niches like cliffs, rocks, and at the bases of trees where resources are scarce. Boechera is used by the West Virginia White where Cardamine diphylla or other species are not available.

One of the biggest threats to this butterfly is the invasion of garlic mustard into their habitats.

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Do you know the about these butterflies? Test your knowledge of Pieris virginiensis with this video.

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There are two major native plants that support the West Virginia White butterfly's development.

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Visit Don Cipollini's lab website for opportunities to work with the West Virginia White butterfly as a graduate student.

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As long as they've been a species, West Virginia Whites have been under threat of extinction.

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Visit Sam's blog to discover what she's up to now, after leaving Wright State University in May, 2015 with her Ph.D.

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