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This species is accepted, and its native range is Somalia.


Ensermu & Darbyshire. 2018. Six new species of Barleria L. (Acanthaceae) from Northeast Tropical Africa. Kew Bulletin 73:1. DOI 10.1007/S12225-017-9725-2

This species is known only from the type gathering made in 1933, when it was recorded as abundant at the type locality. Google Earth imagery shows that this area is now intensively farmed, with many strip-like fields clearly visible across the plains and gulleys, particularly south of the Buramo-Hargeisa road. This area has been farmed for at least 50 years (Ahmed Ibrahim Awale, pers. comm. via H. Pickering). In view of the significant habitat loss, this species may well be globally threat­ened, but with no recent information and with only one historical collection known, it must currently be considered Data Deficient (DD).
Barleria ensermui is currently known only from the type collection from Somaliland in northwest Somalia close to the Ethiopia border (Flora of Somalia region N1). Map 1, blue square.
Barleria ensermui was recorded from amongst grass in open Acacia woodland over gneiss at c. 1580 m elevation.
Morphology General Habit
Dwarf, harshly spiny shrublet, much branched with short internodes and contracted lateral branches, stems somewhat quadrangular, white-puberulous, the hairs retrorse
Morphology General Spines
Axillary spines paired, of sterile, reduced bracteoles, 7 - 18 x 1 - 3.5 mm, curved, with few spines along margins
Morphology Leaves
Leaves on short petiole to 1.5 mm long or subsessile; blade elliptic or somewhat oblanceolate, 9 - 14 x 4 - 6 mm, base cuneate- attenuate, margin entire, apex acute and mucronate for up to 1 mm, surfaces white-puberulous, the hairs curled, and with longer pale yellow-buff ascending or appressed hairs; lateral veins 3 - 5 pairs, these and midrib pale and ± prominent beneath
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens inserted 11.5 - 12.5 mm from base of corolla tube; filaments 21 - 23 mm long, pubescent at base; anthers 2.2 - 2.5 mm long; lateral staminodes with filaments 2.5 - 3 mm long, pubescent; antherodes well-developed, 0.7 - 0.9 mm long, bearing a few pollen grains; adaxial staminode 2.6 mm long, antherode absent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx in dry state at first purple-brown with darker palmate-reticulate venation, later turning pale-scarious; anterior lobe (oblong-) elliptic or obovate, 11.5 - 15 x 4.5 - 8 mm, base cuneate or attenuate, margin with small spinulose bristle-tipped teeth in distal half, apex with one or often two short spines to 1 mm long, external surface with long pale- buff ascending hairs and few to numerous short white curled hairs, also with scattered short-stalked cup­shaped orange glands and few minute glandular hairs; posterior lobe as anterior lobe but up to 17 x 11.5 mm excluding long apical spine 3.7 - 9 mm long, margin with 2 or 3 conspicuous spines to 1.5 - 4.5 mm long in distal half on each side; lateral lobes linear-lanceolate,8 mm long, ascending-pubescent and with short glandular hairs towards apex
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla pale blue, 37 - 42 mm long, pubescent externally with mixed glandu­lar and eglandular hairs; tube 24 - 25 mm long, cylindrical and 3 mm wide below insertion point of stamens, gradually funnel-shaped distally, mouth 6 - 8 mm wide; limb in weak “4+1” configuration, abaxial lobe offset by ± 3 mm, all lobes obovate, 11 - 14.5 mm long, abaxial and lateral lobes, 7.5 - 10 mm wide, apices rounded, adaxial lobes 7 - 8.5 mm, apices with short attenuate tip
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary 3 - 3.5 mm long, glabrous; style c. 35 mm long, crisped-puberulent towards base, densely so at attachment point; stigma clavate, 0.6 - 0.75 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Capsule only seen in immature state, fusiform with very short beak, 12.5 - 13x5 mm in face view, glabrous; seeds not seen
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences axillary and sub-terminal, 2 - 6-flowered (sub)sessile contracted unilateral cymes up to 2.5 cm long at maturity; bracts foliaceous; bracteoles at first purple- brown, later turning pale-scarious, pairs unequal, larger of each pair held adjacent to calyx, lanceolate, 18 - 27 x 4.5 - 9 mm, base abruptly widened and rounded, margin with 2 - 4 lateral spines per side up to 2.5 - 4.5 mm long, apex attenuate into a long spine, this often somewhat curved; smaller bracteole of each pair held adjacent to inflorescence axis, shorter and narrower than the larger one; pair of bracteoles at base of inflorescence usually narrower, the larger 3.5 mm wide, and with a more cuneate-attenuate base; flowers sessile
As noted in the introduction, this species is named in honour of Ensermu Kelbessa (1952 - 2016) to acknowledge his important contribution to African botany. Barleria ensermui falls within sect. Barleria and appears to be allied to other spiny species in this section from northeast Africa; it is compared to potential confusion species in Table1. Hedren (2006a) included it within B. mucronifolia but noted that “Gillett 4999 from N1 stands out by having large funnel-shaped flowers up to 25 mm across and more spiny calyx lobes with apical spine up to c. 12 mm long” (p. 429). The apical spine character does not appear to differentiate the two species, but the marked differences in corolla and calyx morphology clearly separate these two as distinct species (see Recognition section, and Table1). B. mucronifolia, including B. homoiotricha C. B. Clarke which was the name used in Ensermu (2006), is widespread in the Horn of Africa and extends to Yemen. The corolla morphology of Barleria ensermui is more reminiscent of B. steudneri C. B. Clarke from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. However, that species has longer, trailing-decumbent leafy stems with larger leaves 20 - 55 mm long and has markedly different calyces, the anterior and posterior lobes being broader (the latter 12 - 17 mm wide) and with a laciniate-toothed margin which is also conspicuously bristly-ciliate. B. steudneri also has shorter staminal filaments and larger anthers than B. ensermui (see Table1). A final species worthy of mention is Barleria delamerei S. Moore from southern Ethiopia, Kenya and northern Tanzania, which was recorded under its synonym B. spinisepala E. A. Bruce in Ensermu (2006). This species also has a similar corolla morphology but is easily separated from B. ensermui by, amongst other differences, having single-flowered inflorescences, linear or narrowly lanceolate bracteoles with a narrower blade, in usually having narrower, lanceolate to oblong-elliptic calyx lobes, 2 - 6 mm wide which if at the wider end of this range, are more regularly spiny along the margin, and in the external surface of the calyces and bracteoles lacking large short-stalked cup-shaped glands. B. delamerei is not known from Somalia — the record of B. spinisepala in Hedren (2006a) is erroneous; see Darbyshire (2010). Barleria ensermui has previously been confused with B. mucronifolia Lindau but clearly differs in corolla morphology: B. ensermui has a markedly shorter corolla tube 24 - 25 mm long (vs 33 - 40 mm long), with a shorter basal cylindrical portion below the insertion point of the stamens, this being 11.5 -12.5 mm from the base in B. ensermui (vs 17 - 24 mm from the base), and a more markedly funnel-shaped throat, and has larger and more divergent corolla lobes 11 - 14 mm long (vs 7 - 11 mm long, not markedly divergent). They also differ in the shape of the outer calyx lobes, those of B. ensermui being (oblong-) elliptic or obovate with base cuneate or attenuate (vs broadly ovate with cordate base) and in the posterior lobe having strictly marginal spines in the distal half (vs margin subentire or if spiny then spines in the proximal half being submarginal).

Native to:


Barleria ensermui I.Darbysh. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Kew Bull. 73(1)-1: 6 (2018 publ. 2017)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R., Nic Lughadha, E., Black, N., Turner, R. & Paton, A. (2021). The World Checklist of Vascular Plants, a continuously updated resource for exploring global plant diversity. Scientific Data 8: 215.


Kew Bulletin

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Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Kew Bulletin
Kew Bulletin

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.