Vanessa cardui has a brownish orange forewing with a darker base, the forewings have a black crest patch and a white stripe on the front edge. The hind wings have a series of small black submarginal spots that are sometimes scaly blue. The underside has a black, brown and gray pattern with 4 small spots at the submarginal.
Larva: larvae of Vanessa cardui are brownish black with yellow bands on their backs, have setae in each segment of their body.
Pupa: Vanessa cardui pupa is grayish brown with cone-like spines on its back. The head is conical with a line across the mesothorax.