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A Comprehensive Guide to the Henry’s Elfin (Callophrys henrici)

Introduction to the Henry’s Elfin

The Henry’s Elfin is a brown colored butterfly in the Gossamer Wing Family (Lycaenidae). This butterfly flies in the midwest and eastern United States and in southern Canada from Manitoba to Nova Scotia from March to June depending on location. It’s favored habitat is barrens and open woodlands. The Henry’s Elfin feeds on a number of plants including most prominently eastern red (Cercis canadensis) and maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium). It has also shown an appetite for glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula), an introduced species.

Taxonomy and Naming of the Henry’s Elfin (Callophrys henrici)

Henry's elfin (Callophrys henrici) on the ground.
Henry’s Elfin — Callophrys henrici (Grote & Robinson, 1867) observed in Canada by Ian Whyte (licensed under CC0 1.0)


This butterfly was named and described by Augustus Radcliffe Grote and W.D. Robinson in 1867 based on a specimen near Philadelphia (Pelham 2008). A synonym, Incisalia henrici, is shown as the accepted name in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), and is seen in some literature. This butterfly is a member of the family Lycaenidae and is in the subfamily Theclinae.

Meaning of the Scientific and Common Names

Scientific Name

The genus name, Callophrys, is derived from the Greek word for “beautiful eyebrows” (Wikipedia). The species name, henrici, is a Latinized form of Henry (Wikipedia). It is unknown how this relates to this species.

Common Name

The common name comes apparently comes from the species name.

Physical Description

Henry's elfin on the ground.
Henry’s Elfin — Callophrys henrici (Grote & Robinson, 1867) observed in United States of America by izzykracken (licensed under CC0 1.0)


  • Color: Dark brown underside with a tinge of orange or yellow-brown going outward
  • Wingspan: 0.8 to 1.25 inches. The females can have red scaling (Bouseman and Sternburg 2001).
  • Active Flying Time: Adults are active between February and May.

Life Cycle of the Henry’s Elfin

Purple caterpillar of henry's elfin (Callophrys henrici).
Caterpillar of Henry’s Elfin — Callophrys henrici (Grote & Robinson, 1867) observed in United States of America by mbelitz (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Caterpillar of Henry's elfin (Callophrys henrici) on a leaf.
Caterpillar of Henry’s Elfin — Callophrys henrici (Grote & Robinson, 1867) observed in United States of America by henrya (licensed under CC0 1.0)


The white eggs of the Henry’s elfin are often laid on twigs of the host plant.


The larva is a green to reddish color.

In the north, two broods can be produced, while in the south there are often three in a season.


This butterfly overwinters in the mottled brown chrysalis in leaf litter, which camouflages it.


The adults are generally a two-tone brown color, but can also have white or black. Once they emerge, the adults have a single flight.

Range of Henry’s Elfin (Callophrys henrici) in the United States and Canada

Range map of Henry's Elfin (Callophrys henrici) in the United States and Canada.
Range map of Henry’s Elfin (Callophrys henrici) in the United States and Canada.

The Henry’s Elfin is found from the mid-western United States and Canada east to the east coast. This butterfly is listed as rare in the states of New York and Nebraska.


Mid-Atlantic mixed hardwood forest in Delaware.
Mixed Hardwood Forest — Author Image

This butterfly found in forested areas where its host plants are. It can also be in barrens and bogs (Ferge 2002).

Host Plants

Leaves of maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) with flowers.
Maple-leaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) — Jomegat, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Henry’s Elfin feeds as a larva on a number of plants. These include the maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) (Natural History Museum in London), glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) (Layberry 2007), American holly (Ilex opaca) (NABA), redbud (Cercis canadensis) (Bouseman and Sternburg 2001) and others. This elfin may be increasing in some areas because of the spread of glossy buckthorn (Catling et al 1998). Oftentimes, the particular food plant being used varies by region (Missouri Department of Conservation).

Nectar Plants

Sweet joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium maculatum) in a garden.
Spotted Joe-Pye-Weed (Eutrochium maculatum) — Author Image

Like a lot of other butterflies, it likes flowers from milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), Joe-Pye weeds (Eutrochium spp.), cherries (Prunus spp.), and lilac (Syringa vulgaris).

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the male and females of this butterfly different?

The females of this species can have red scaling, which the males do not have.

What other butterflies look like Henry’s Elfin?

The frosted elfin (Callophrys irus) is similar but has an even color, is larger and does not have the two tone color that this specie has. The brown elfin (Callophrys augustinus) has a more reddish-brown color and the hoary elfin (Callophrys polios), is smaller (Wikipedia).


  • Bouseman, John K. and James G. Sternburg. 2001. Field Guide to butterflies of Illinois. (Champaign, Ill: Illinois Natural History Survey).
  • Catling, P.M., R.A. Layberry, J.P. Crolla, and P.W. Hall. 1998. Increase in Populations of Henry’s Elfin Callophrys henrici, (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae), in Ottawa-Carleton, Ontario, Associated with Man-made Habitats and Glossy Buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula, Thickets. The Canadian Field Naturalist 112: 335-337.
  • Ferge, Leslie A. 2002. Checklist of Wisconsin Butterflies. Wisconsin Entomological Society miscellaneous publication no. 1.
  • Layberry, Ross. 2007. Butterflies of the Ottawa District: 103 species…and counting. Trail and Landscape 41(1): 16-36.
  • Pelham, Jonathan P. 2008. A Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 40: 1-652.
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Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.