Genus Sapho Selys, 1853

Type species: Agrion ciliatum Fabricius, 1781


Endemic to tropical Africa with six species, differing from Umma mainly by being more robust with larger pterostigmas and often coloured wings. The most widespread species S. bicolor is a large (hindwing 33-37 mm) metallic blue-green demoiselle preferring springs and the smallest rainforest streams. It has dark wing tips that are bordered by a band of whitish pruinosity in Central Africa (‘superba’), but not in West Africa (‘true’ bicolor). Three species with entirely dark blue wings (hindwing up to 44 mm) inhabit larger streams and rivers: S. ciliata is restricted to West Africa, but the taxonomic distinction between S. gloriosa and S. orichalcea of Central Africa is as yet unresolved. The latter is based on the presence, extent and position of a pruinose band on the wings, appearing white at emergence and matt black at maturity. Restricted to rocky streams in the Upper Guinea, Sapho fumosa has wings with variably intense and extensive white pruinosity at the nodes and brown at the tips. The poorly-known Sapho puella of Cameroon also has (always?) largely clear wings. [Adapted from Dijkstra & Clausnitzer 2014]


More robust than Umma with wider often coloured wings and swollen pterostigmas. However, a perfect definition to separate these two genera is still wanting.

Sapho bicolor Selys, 1853. Male © Andr?® G??nther

Sapho gloriosa McLachlan, 1873. Male © Andr?® G??nther

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.


  • Sjöstedt, Y. (1917). Odonaten aus Abessinien, Ost- und Westafrika. Arkiv Zoologi, 11, 1-27.

Citation: Dijkstra, K.-D.B (editor). African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. [2024-07-25].