As I strolled around The Arbor Gate last Saturday, I found this gorgeous creature nectaring on an Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata).
Upon my return home, I downloaded my images so I could compare them with those in my go-to guide, John and Gloria Tveten's BUTTERFLIES OF HOUSTON & SOUTHEAST TEXAS guide. The answer to my question was found on pages 144-145: this is Polygonia interrogationis, the Question Mark butterfly, in its winter form (the hindwings are orange with dark spots and not mostly black). Although Question Marks are seen throughout the greater Houston area most of the year, winter adults will hibernate during severe cold spells. Sheltering spots include loose bark or tree cavities; even a pile of old boards is sufficient for these long lived butterflies. On sunny winter days, the Question Marks may be seen sunning themselves on tree trunks or other warm exposed spots.
Those tiny silvery-white dots on its hindwing earned this butterfly both its species name, interrogationis (from the Latin interrogatio, "question") and its common name of Question Mark. There's no question in my mind that I'd love to see these lovelies in my gardens. I may have to enjoy them on my visits to The Arbor Gate and other areas where these butterflies' larval food plants, which included various species of hackberries and elms, abound. Another visit to The Arbor Gate? I'll make the sacrifice!