Skip to main content
This species is accepted, and its native range is Ethiopia.


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 occurs only in the upland forest zone of western Ethiopia between Gambela and Jimma west to east and between Nekemte and Mizan Teferi north to south. It has an EOO of 39,934 km2 and an AOO of 80 km2, applying the standard 2x2kmgrid cell size recommended for AOO calculation (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee2017). It can be locally common in suitable habitat. However, these forests are under increasing threat from a range of pressures including expanding plantation agriculture, exotic tree forestry and timber extraction (BirdLife International2017a& b; Sebsebe Demissew, pers. comm.). Several historicalsites for this species now appear, from Google Earth imagery, to have little or no forest remaining. It is therefore possible that this species would qualify as threatened under IUCN criterion A, but for a full assessment, the generation length and rates of decline would need to be better understood. In the absence of such information, this species is considered to be Near Threatened (NT) as it is close to qualifying as Vulnerable under IUCN criterion B2 but with more than 10 locations currently known.
Baleria baluganii occurs in the Welega, Ilubabor and Kefa Floristic Regions of southwestern Ethiopia. Map 1, black circles.
Barleria baluganii occurs in areas of moist forest of e.g. Pouteria, Albizia, Olea, Scheffl era and Dracaena, sometimes with Croton macrostachyus Delile and Cordia africana Lam. It typically occurs in dense thickets along forest streams, margins, clearings or in disturbed secondary growth where it can clamber over and within other bushes and small trees. It can also occur in coffee plantations where the coffee is shade-cropped within semi-natural forest, where it can be found clambering over Coffea arabica L. It occurs at (1100 -) 1600 - 2200 m altitude.
Morphology General Habit
Scrambling or climbing woody herb up to 2 - 5 m high; stems channelled, black or dark green (-brown) in dry state, glabrous except for some bristly hairs at the nodes and on distal-most internodes, these also with two lines of pale retrorse hairs; internodes 5 - 13 cm long
Morphology Leaves
Leaves on petioles 4 - 30 mm long, glabrous or shortly pubescent above; blade ovate or ovate-elliptic,7 - 16 x 3 - 6 cm, broadest below the middle, base cuneate to attenuate, margins entire, apex short- or often long-acuminate, surfaces largely glabrous except for sparse appressed bristly hairs along main veins beneath and on margin, adaxial surface sometimes with scattered appressed hairs; lateral veins 5 - 6 pairs, strongly ascending
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 2, inserted ± 10 mm above base of corolla tube; filaments 24 - 25 mm long, pubescent at base with glandular and eglandular hairs; anthers ± 3 mm long; staminodes 3,filaments ± 3 mm long, pilose with eglandular hairs; antherodes of lateral staminodes ± 1 mm long, adaxial staminode without antherode
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx with lobes unequal, anterior lobe ovate-elliptic, 10 - 16 x 4 - 7 mm, apex bifid with 0.5 - 4 mm long lobes; posterior lobe 11 - 17 x 6 - 8 mm, apex entire, acute to attenuate, both pubescent with bristly hairs, these appressed on external surface, longer and ascending along margin where sometimes bulbous-based and forming small teeth, external surface with or without sparse short spreading glandular hairs; lateral lobes linear-subulate, 9 - 12 x 1.2 - 1.5 mm, black along midrib, pubescent with ascending long bristly hairs
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla blue or pale lilac-blue, (35 -)40- 45 mm long; tube infundibuliform, 21 - 23 mm long, narrow proximal portion 9 - 10 mm long, ± 3 mm diam at extreme base, glabrous, distal enlarged portion 12 - 13 mm long, 10 - 11 mm diam at mouth, this and lobes pubescent externally with glandular and eglandular hairs; limb in “4+1” configuration, abaxial lobe offset by 10 - 11 mm, obovate, 16 - 18 x 19 - 21 mm (c 6 mm wide at base), apex emarginate; lateral and adaxial lobes subequal 12 - 14 x 10 - 15 mm (4 - 7 mm wide at base)
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary ± 3 mm long, surrounded by disc for up to half its length, glabrous; style ± 35 mm long, glabrous; stigma clavate to subcapitate, 0.6 - 0.8 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Capsule (obovate-) elliptic in face view, 12 - 15x6 - 8 mm, shining black, glabrous, 2-seeded; seeds 6 - 7x5 - 6 mm, face sub­ovate, with dark golden-yellow to brown hygroscopic hairs in dry state, shining
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences of 3 - 7- or more (rarely 1 - 2- when young) flowered cymes borne in the upper leaf-axils and terminally, at 3 - 7 nodes, the lower cymes alternate and distant, the upper opposite and condensed, together forming an interrupted terminal thyrse; bracts foliaceous but reducing rapidly up the thyrse, those in distal portion ovate-elliptic to narrowly elliptic, 15 - 28 x 4 - 13 mm, indumentum as that of leaves; bracteoles linear to narrowly oblanceo- late, 4 - 12 x 0.5 - 2 mm or those of first flowers in several-flowered cymes can be larger, oblanceolate or even elliptic, 10 - 15 x 2 - 6 mm, sparsely pubescent with bristly hairs mostly along margins, with or without few glandular hairs, or nearly glabrous
The species epithet was proposed by Ensermu (pers. comm.) to commemorate Luigi Balugani (1737 - 1770), Italian artist from Bologna, who served as an assistant and artist to the Scottish explorer James Bruce during their journey in Ethiopia in 1769 - 1770, during which Balugani was the first to study the Ethiopian flora and make meticulous drawings and observations according to contemporary scientific ideas. Barleria baluganii is closely related to B. ventricosa Hochst. ex Nees and allies. It differs from B. ventricosa sensu stricto and B. vix-dentata C. B. Clarke (sometimes treated as a form of B. ventricosa) in that it dries dark green or green-brown with often blackish stems (vs usually drying bright green or greyish-green); in the vegetative parts being near-glabrous (vs con­spicuously hairy); in usually having long-acuminate leaves (vs leaves acute, attenuate or at most shortly acuminate), in the individual cymes of the thyrse having 3 - 7 or more flowers (vs 1 - 3 flowers), and in the indumentum on the external calyx surface being sparser and more appressed. The “ keniensis” form of B. ventricosa often dries blackish and can have more markedly acuminate leaves and more than 3 flowers per cyme as in B. baluganii, but the new species differs in being less hairy throughout and in particular lacking the dense silky indumentum of the calyces, bracts and young shoots, and in having more unequal anterior and posterior calyx lobes. With the combination of 2-seeded capsule lacking a prominent beak, simple indumentum, lack of spines and infundibuliform corolla with “4+1 ” limb configuration, this species would previously have been placed within Barleria sect. Fissimura M. Balkwill (Balkwill & Balkwill1997; Darbyshire 2009). However, recent molecular evidence (Fisher et al., unpubl. data) indicates that sect. Fissmura is nested within sect. Barleria and so cannot be upheld. B. baluganii is allied to the B. ventricosa Nees complex; this group was treated as an aggregate species with only informally recognised taxa in Flora of Tropical East Africa (Darbyshire 2010 — see discussion on p. 363) whereas in FEE the taxa were maintained as good species (Ensermu 2006). It is on the latter basis that B. baluganii is recognised as a distinct species, and this is well justified by the fact that the different entities are clearly discrete in Ethiopia. Indeed, B. baluganii is quite distinctive in general gestalt, and can be separated from all forms of B. ventricosa sensu lato when the combination of the following characters is observed: the largely glabrous vegetative parts that dry dark green to green-brown (stems often drying black), the ± long-acuminate leaves, the well-developed termi­nal thyrse with cymes often more than 3-flowered, and the rather sparse appressed calyx indumentum. It should be noted, however, that none of these charac­ters are wholly diagnostic when taken in isolation. A detailed molecular study is required on the B. ventricosa complex to assist with species delimitation, but B. baluganii appears to be sufficiently distinct morphologically to warrant recognition at this stage. The only other potential confusion species is Barleria brownii S. Moore which also occurs in the forests of Kefa region, although at slightly lower altitudes (± 1050 m), and shares with B. baluganii an interrupted terminal thyrse. However, B. brownii is unmistakable in flower, having extremely long- exserted stamens and stigmas, the staminal filaments being 34 - 65 mm long and the style similarly long. Barleria baluganii is one of several forest acanths restricted to the moist forests of western and southern Ethiopia; other examples include Brillantaisia grotanellii Pic. Serm., Justicia bizuneshiae Ensermu and the recently described Acanthopale aethio-germanica Ensermu (Ensermu 2006, 2009).

Native to:


Barleria baluganii Ensermu appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Kew Bull. 73(1)-1: 7 (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

  • Anderson, T. (1863). An enumeration of the species of Acanthaceae from the continent of Africa and the adjacent islands. J. Proc. Linn. Soc., Bot. 7: 13 - 54
  • Balkwill, M. J. & Balkwill, K. (1997). Delimitation and infra­generic classification of Barleria ( Acanthaceae). Kew Bull. 52: 535 - 573.
  • Balkwill, M. J. & Balkwill, K. (1998). A preliminary analysis of distribution patterns in a large, pantropical genus, BarleriaL. (Acanthaceae). J. Biogeogr. 25: 95 - 110.
  • Balkwill, M. J. (1993). A reappraisal of the generic limits and subdivision of Barleria L. (Acanthaceae). Unpubl. Ph.D. thesis, University of Witwatersrand, Johan­nesburg.
  • BirdLife International (2017a). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bonga forest. [ Accessed: June 2017].
  • BirdLife International (2017b). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Metu -Gore - Tepi forests. [ Accessed: June 2017].
  • BirdLife International (2017c). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Liben plains and Negele woodlands. [ Accessed: June 2017].
  • Clarke, C. B. (1899). Barleria. In: W. T. Thiselton-Dyer (ed.), Flora of Tropical Africa, vol. 5: 140 - 169. L. Reeve & Co., London.
  • Darbyshire et al. (2015: 345).
  • Darbyshire, I. & Luke, Q. (2016). Barleriamirabilis (Acanthaceae): a remarkable new tree species from west Tanzania. Kew Bull. 17: 13 (6 pages).
  • Darbyshire, I. (2009).Areassessmentofthestatusof Barleria sect. Cavirostrata ( Acanthaceae)intropicalAfrica,witha new species, B. richardsiae, described from the Tanzania- Zambia border region. Kew Bull. 63: 601 - 611.
  • Darbyshire, I. (2010). Barleria. In: H. J. Beentje (ed.), Flora of Tropical East Africa. Acanthaceae (Part 2), pp. 325 - 442. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Darbyshire, I. (2015). Barleria. In: J. R. Timberlake & E. S. Martins(eds), FloraZambesiaca8(6): 37 -122. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Darbyshire, I. , Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering,H. (2015). ThePlantsofSudanandSouthSudan. An annotated checklist. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Darbyshire, I., Vollesen, K. & Ensermu Kelbessa (2010). Acanthaceae (Part 2). In: H. Beentje (ed.), Flora of Tropical East Africa. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa (1982). A palynological-taxonomic study of the genus Asystasia and a palynological study of some related genera in the Acanthaceae. M.Sc. thesis, Addis Ababa University.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa (1989a). Two new species of Justicia sect. Ansellia (Acanthaceae) from E and NE tropical Africa. Nordic J. Bot. 9: 399 - 404.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa (1989b). A new species of Asystasia(Acanthaceae) from Ethiopia. Bull. Jard. Bot. Natl. Belg. 59: 413 - 418.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa (1990). Justicia sect. Ansellia (Acanthaceae). Symb. Bot. Upsal. 29(2): 1 - 96.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa (1993).Studiesinthegenus Asystasia(Acanthaceae) in Africa I: two new species from tropical Africa. Opera Bot.121:153-158.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa (1994). A revision of Asystasia gangetica (L.) T. Anders.(Acanthaceae).In:J.H.Seyani&A.C. Chikuni (eds), Proceedings of the 13th Plenary Meeting of AETFAT, Zomba, Malawi, 2 -11 April 1991. Vol. 1. Plants for People, pp. 333 - 346. National Herbarium and Botanic Garden of Malawi, Zomba.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa (1998).Studiesinthegenus Asystasia(Acanthaceae) in Africa II: further new species. Kew Bull. 53: 929 - 935.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa (2006). Acanthaceae. In: I. Hedberg et al.(eds), Flora ofEthiopia & Eritrea,vol.5:345- 495. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University & The Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa (2009). Three new species of Acanthaceae from Ethiopia. Kew Bull. 64: 57 - 65.
  • Ensermu Kelbessa, Brummitt, R. K. & Furness, C. A. (1992). A reconsideration of Asystasiella Lindau (Acanthaceae). Kew. Bull. 47: 669 - 675.
  • Hedberg, I., Ensermu Kelbessa, Edwards, S., Sebsebe Demissew & Persson, E. (eds) (2006). Flora of Ethiopia & Eritrea, vol. 5. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University & The Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University.
  • Hedren, M. (2006a). Barleria. In: M. Thulin (ed.), Flora of Somalia,vol.3:427- 442. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Hedren, M. (2006b). New species and combinations in Acanthaceae from Somalia. Willdenowia. 36: 751 - 759.
  • IUCN (2012). IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 3.1. Second Edition. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland & Cambridge.
  • IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee (2017). Guidelines for Using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 13. Prepared by the Standards and Petitions Subcommittee. [ Accessed: June 2017].
  • Michalscheck, M., Petersen, G. & Gadein, H. (2016). Impacts of rising water demands in the Juba and Shabelle river basins on water availability in south Somalia. Hydrological Sci. J. 61: 1877 - 1889.
  • Sebsebe Demissew, Bytebier, B., etal. (2016). Professor Ensermu Kelbessa. J. East African Nat. Hist. 105: 203 - 211.
  • Thieme, M. L., Abell, R., Stiassny, M. L. J., Skelton, P., Lehner,B.,Teugels,G.G.,Dinerstein,E.,Toham,A. K., Burgess, N. & Olson, D. (2005). FreshwaterEcoregions of Africa and Madagascar. A conservation assessment. World Wildlife Fund; Island Press, Washington.
  • Vivero, J. L., Ensermu Kelbessa & Sebsebe Demissew (2005). TheRedListofEndemicTreesandShrubsofEthiopia and Eritrea. Fauna & Flora International, Cambridge.
  • Vivero, J. L., Ensermu Kelbessa & Sebsebe Demissew (2006). Progress on the Red List of plants of Ethiopia and Eritrea: conservation and biogeography of endemic flowering taxa. In: S. A. Ghazanfar & H. J. Beentje (eds), Taxonomy and Ecology of African Plant, their Conservatino and Sus­tainable Use. Proceedings ofthe 17th AETFAT Congress, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, pp. 761 - 778. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew & National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University.
  • Vollesen, K. & Ensermu Kelbessa (2010). Asystasia. In: H. J. Beentje (ed.), Flora of Tropical East Africa. Acanthaceae (Part 2), pp. 325 - 442. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Wood, J. R. I. (1997). A Handbook of the Yemen Flora. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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.