Adults are orange above and brown below. Both sexes have a dark spot on the dorsal forewing (in the discal cell). Males have a dark margin; females have a wide yellow-orange submarginal band (just inside the outer edge) bordered by darker scales. The winter form of both is more boldly marked, the forewings are more pointed and the tails are longer.
The wing margins are not scalloped, and the ventral (lower) side is a fairly uniform brown, separating this species from the anglewings (Polygonia spp.)
Larvae are grayish-green with small raised dots; head grayish-green with small protuberances.