Plants and Animals

Polygonia gracilis Hoary comma

Key Characteristics

Upper surfaces are patterned like those of other anglewings, but have heavier dark markings. Undersurfaces are gray-brown with the outer half distinctly hoary white to silery gray. A silver comma, blunt on the ends, is present on the hindwing. Absence of hindwing black median spot and absence of paler gray margin on the hindwing. The caterpillar is predominantly black and marked with white; spines are black marked with white.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: X - Presumed extirpated (legally 'threatened' if rediscovered)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: SH - Possibly extirpated


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Chippewa 1 1975
Schoolcraft 1 1960

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Boreal forest openings and edges, stream margins and trails. Adults prefer tree sap and moisture from damp soils. Host plants are reported to be currant (Ribes sp.) and gooseberry.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Surveys and research are needed to assess this species' abundance, distribution, life history, ecology and threats. Sites at which this species has been documented should be protected and maintained. Adequate suitable habitat at known sites should be maintained including sufficient densities of the species' host plant. Long-term preservation of the habitats with which this species is associated require maintenance and/or restoration of natural disturbance regimes and other ecological processes that lead to establishment and maintenance of these natural communities.

Active Period

Flight from fourth week of July to fourth week of July

Survey Methods

The Hoary comma has two generations each year and overwinters as an adult. Larvae are present from June to July and again from August to September. Adults of this species have been observed from late May to late July in Michigan. The best way to survey for this species is by conducting visual meander surveys which consists of checking for this species near larval food plants or on sap flows.

Visual, aerial net

Survey Period: From fourth week of May to fourth week of July

Time of Day: Daytime


Survey References

  • Klots, A.B. 1951. Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Butterflies. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 349pp.
  • Martin, J.E.H. 1977. The Insects and Arachnids of Canada (Part 1): Collecting, preparing, and preserving insects, mites, and spiders. Publication 1643. Biosystematics Research Institute, Ottawa.

Technical References

  • Klots, A.B. 1951. Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Butterflies. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 349pp.
  • Nielsen, M.C. 1999. Michigan butterflies and skippers: A field guide and reference. Michigan State University Extension Bulletin E-2675, East Lansing. 248pp.
  • Stehr, F. W. 1997. Michigan Lepidoptera Survey Sites and Seasonal Occurrence of Michigan's Listed Species Annual Report 1997. 30 pp.+ MI Lepidoptera Survey Data Collection Form