Male, ssp. hippothoe, Switzerland, July 2014
Male, ssp. hippothoe, Switzerland, June 2006
Male, ssp. eurydame, Switzerland, July 2015
Male, ssp. eurydame, Switzerland, July 2019
Female, subspecies eurydame, Switzerland, July 2013
Female, eurydame, Switzerland, August 2013
Female, ssp. hippothoe, Switzerland, June 2008
Female, ssp. hippothoe, Switzerland, July 2008
Female, ssp. hippothoe, May 2007
Male, ssp. hippothoe, Switzerland, June 2005
Male underside, Switzerland, June 2005
Egg, Switzerland, July 2012
The same egg, showing position on bistort leaf.
This is a widespread but rather local
butterfly of wet meadows and hillsides where its foodplant - most
commonly bistort but also sorrel - grows. Most western populations are
single-brooded, flying in June (or late May in good years) and July,
though further east it is apparently bivoltine. To me, the first
purple-edged copper of the year is a sign that high summer is upon us.
Males of the nominate subspecies, hippothoe, are burnished copper in colour with violet gleams around the edges of the wings and reaching in towards the base of the hindwing. There is usually a black discoidal mark on all wings. In the high Alps a rather different subspecies, eurydame, flies. Males of this subspecies lack the violet reflections and very often the black discoidal marks too, leaving the wings bright orange all over apart from the narrow dark border. If the underside is not seen, this form might be mistaken for the scarce copper, though that species has a tapered border on the forewing, broadest at the apex, and usually dark intrusions around the trailing edge of the hindwing. Females of hippothoe are very variable, some having open, orange forewings with dark spots while others are more or less completely suffused with dark brown, leaving just a hint of orange. Females of eurydame are all brown above. In many respects, hippothoe females resemble oversized sooty coppers. It is useful to note that the line of postdiscal spots is staggered in that species. There is a further subspecies, stiberi, in Lapland. The Balkan purple-edged copper, Lycaena candens, used to be considered a subspecies of purple-edged - and still is by some - but is generally considered a distinct species these days.
In Switzerland I have seen purple-edged coppers from the valley to the highest mountains. It is not rare but is generally local - especially ssp. hippothoe, which is closely connected with bistort. Like most coppers, it hibernates as a small larva.