Genus Palpopleura Rambur, 1842


  • scientific: Hemistigmoides Calvert, 1899 [deceptor]

Type species: Palpopleura vestita Rambur, 1842


Five species occur in Africa, one in Madagascar and one in southern Asia. All are very to fairly small (hindwing 15-29 mm) with a short and broad abdomen with a characteristic pattern of three black and four yellow stripes, which becomes pruinose with maturity. They are easily recognised by the wave in the basal forewing costa, although this is weak in P. deceptor. The latter is named for its deceptive similarity to Hemistigma, and therefore the subgenus Hemistigmoides has been proposed for it, but has broader abdomen with a transverse ridge on abdominal segment 4, usually 1-5 doubled cells in the radial planate, and spotted forewing nodes. The appealing P. lucia and P. portia are among Africa’s most photographed dragonflies. They were considered forms of a single species until recently, in part because they almost invariably occur together, at most open pools or marshes in tropical Africa. The females of both are most like P. portia males, but can as yet not be separated. P. deceptor favours seasonal pools, P. jucunda grassy marsh; the subspecies radiata with reduced wing markings occurs in Ethiopia and Sudan. The tiny P. albifrons occurs very locally at small grassy pools and damp spots, often near forest. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]


Genus similar to Rhyothemis by (a) frons and vertex of different colour (e.g. brown or red), more uniform (e.g. less contrasting yellowish dorsally and brown ventrally), or dorsum darkest; (b) occipital triangle smaller with rather concave borders, eyes touching over distance of at least half its length; (c) either Pt bicoloured (half white and half black) or wings with extensive dark markings (normally at least covering Hw triangle or subcostal space of Fw with dark streak), or both. Fw supratriangles usually with 1-3 cross-veins; (d) distal Ax in Fw incomplete, its subcostal section absent (indicated as ‘½’ when Ax are counted). However, differs by (1) dorsum of frons flattened, sloping downwards, flat area demarcated by ridges at least anteriorly; (2) Fw costa wavy, concave halfway between base and node; waviness only weak in P. deceptor; (3) S4 with transverse ridge of similar strength as that on S3 and lateral carina S4. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014; this diagnosis not yet verified by author]

Palpopleura lucia (Drury, 1773). Male © Warwick Tarboton

Palpopleura deceptor (Calvert, 1899). Male © Jens Kipping

Map citation: Clausnitzer, V., K.-D.B. Dijkstra, R. Koch, J.-P. Boudot, W.R.T. Darwall, J. Kipping, B. Samraoui, M.J. Samways, J.P. Simaika & F. Suhling, 2012. Focus on African Freshwaters: hotspots of dragonfly diversity and conservation concern. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 129-134.


  • Mitchell, A., and Samways, M.J. (2005). The morphological ‘forms’ of Palpopleura lucia (Drury) are separate species as evidenced by DNA sequencing Anisoptera: Libellulidae). Odonatologica, 34, 173-178.
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B., and Clausnitzer, V. (in prep.) An annotated checklist of the dragonflies (Odonata) of Eastern Africa: with critical lists for Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda, new records and taxonomic notes. Zoologische Mededelingen. [PDF file]
  • Dijkstra, K.-D.B, and Clausnitzer, V. (2014). The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Eastern Africa: handbook for all Odonata from Sudan to Zimbabwe. Studies in Afrotropical Zoology, 298, 1-264.
  • Ris, F. (1921). The Odonata or Dragonflies of South Africa. Annals South African Museum, XVIII, 245-452. [PDF file]
  • Pinhey, E.C.G. (1961). Dragonflies (Odonata) of Central Africa. Occasional Papers Rhodes-Livingstone Museum, 14, 1-97. [PDF file]
  • Barnard, K.H. (1937). Notes on dragon-flies (Odonata) of the S. W. Cape with descriptions of the nymphs and of new species. Annals South African Museum, 32, 169-260. [PDF file]
  • Schouteden, H. (1934). Annales Musee Congo belge Zoologie 3 Section 2, 3, 1-84. [PDF file]
  • Calvert, P.P. (1899). Neuropterous insects collected by Dr. A. Donaldson Smith in Northeastern Africa. Ecological Entomology, 51, 228-244. [PDF file]

Citation: Dijkstra, K.-D.B (editor). African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. [2024-07-21].