Pieris brassicae

Madeiran Large White
(Pieris brassicae wollastoni)

syn. Ganoris wollastoni, Pieris cheiranthi wollastoni, Pieris wollastoni


Portugal: Madeira

local name:

Borboleta da Madeira (Portuguese)
Grande Branca da Madeira (Portuguese)

size: 5,5 - 6,5 cm (wingspan)

extinction date: last seen in 1977 (1986 according to European Red List of Butterflies - 2010)

The classification of the Madeiran Large White is somewhat difficult, it is treated by different authors either as a subspecies of the Large White (Pieris brassicae) or of the Canary White (Pieris cheiranthi), or even as an independent species.

Most members of this insular form resembled the Large White (Pieris brassicae) in appearance, whereas the individuals, like in most species of Whites, could differ highly from each other, by their colouration as well as in their size.

The larval host plant is said to have been common cabbage (Brassica oleracea). R. Pinker reported in 1968 of a very unusual method of cabbage harvesting on Madeira. The lower leaves are said to have been taken away almost every day, what made a survival of the caterpillars sitting on these leaves very likely impossible.

In the year 1974 the Small White (Pieris rapae) was found on Madeira for the first time, interestingly enough instantly in masses. According to a hypothesis of B. O. C. Gardiner this new species of White, resp. a special form of granulosis virus, which was spread by this species, and against which the Madeiran Large White did not have any resistance, may be at least one of the reasons for the extinction of the endemic White.

The last sighting of the Madeiran Large White was in the year 1977.


Madeiran Large White (Pieris brassicae wollastoni), female

Depiction from 'The butterflies and moths of Teneriffe. By A. E. Holt-White. Ed. by Rashleigh Holt White. Illustrated from the author's drawings. London, L. Reeve & co., 1894.'


Madeiran Large White (Pieris brassicae wollastoni), male, left upside, right underside

Photo: Dr. Heiner Ziegler, by courtesy of Dr. Heiner Ziegler



- Rudolf Pinker: Der Lebensraum von Pieris cheiranthi HBN, und die Einwanderung und Ausbreitung der Catopsilia florella F. auf den Kanaren. Zeitschrift der Arbeitsgemeinschaft österr. Entomologen. 20 (1-3) 1968
- N. Wolff: On the sudden mass occurrence in 1974 of Pieris rapae L. (Lepidoptera, Pieridae) in Madeira. Boletim Mus. Municip. Funchal, 29: 26-32. 1975
- B. O. C. Gardiner: The possible cause of extinction of Pieris brassicae wollastoni Butler (Lepidoptera: Pieridae). – Entomologist’s Gazette, 54: 267-268. 2003