The Gulf fritillary has a wingspan of two and one-half to three and three-fourths inches. Its color patterns are similar in the male and female although the male’s coloration is brighter. The upperside of the wings is orange with dark marks. There are usually three black-encircled white spots near the front edge of the forewings but the number of them may vary. The underside of the wings is brown-orange with silver spots that are more or less oval in shape and black spots that have a sliver center.
The Gulf fritillary lives in woodland edges where passion-flower (Passiflora spp.), its larval host plant, grows. A few individuals are seen annually in the state, and it may breed here, but Illinois is on the northern edge of its range.