Bold Leaftail (Phyllogomphus selysi)

View the above photo record (by Ronelle White) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Bold Leaftail in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Gomphidae

Phyllogomphus selysi BOLD LEAFTAIL


Very Large

Length attains 70mm; Wingspan reaches 95mm.

An impressive and distinctive species. It may be confused with the slightly larger Ictinogomphus ferox (Common Tigertail), but that species is paler and appears yellow with black markings while Phyllogomphus selysi is black-brown with yellow markings.

May also be mistaken for Neurogomphus zambeziensis (Zambezi siphontail), but that species is decidedly smaller and paler with less conspicuous foliations on the abdomen.

The females resemble the males but are more robust and have smaller foliations, which may sometimes be absent.

Click here for more details on identification of the Bold Leaftail.

Phyllogomphus selysi – Male
Near Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Occupies the wooded or forested fringes of rivers and streams. Hunts from bushes in clearings near the river. Frequently some distance from the water.

Habitat – Clearing next to a small river in coastal forest.
Near Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


The Bold leaftail hunts from a perch and has a swift, powerful flight. Hunts from exposed twigs and branches up to about two meters above the ground, but often found lower down. Individuals rest in the tree-tops when not hunting. They can be fairly confiding but remain alert, and will fly high and far once disturbed. Phyllogomphus selysi is elusive and seldom seen, and may be largely crepuscular in its activity.

Status and Conservation

A rare and localised species in South Africa. Phyllogomphus selysi reaches its southern limit in South Africa where it is marginal and known from relatively few sites. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened species. This is due to its wide distribution in tropical Africa. Mostly found in undisturbed habitats.


Phyllogomphus selysi is a tropical species found in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. Occuring from Cameroon across to Kenya and down through central Africa to Botswana and South Africa. Its distribution in South Africa is limited to the Limpopo and Mpumalanga lowveld areas and extreme NE KwaZulu-Natal.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Bold Leaftail in the OdonataMAP database as at February 2020.

The next map below is an imputed map, produced by an interpolation algorithm, which attempts to generate a full distribution map from the partial information in the map above. This map will be improved by the submission of records to the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum.

Ultimately, we will produce a series of maps for all the odonata species in the region. The current algorithm is a new algorithm. The objective is mainly to produce “smoothed” maps that could go into a field guide for odonata. This basic version of the algorithm (as mapped above) does not make use of “explanatory variables” (e.g. altitude, terrain roughness, presence of freshwater — we will be producing maps that take these variables into account soon). Currently, it only makes use of the OdonataMAP records for the species being mapped, as well as all the other records of all other species. The basic maps are “optimistic” and will generally show ranges to be larger than what they probably are.

These maps use the data in the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum, and also the database assembled by the previous JRS funded project, which was led by Professor Michael Samways and Dr KD Dijkstra.

Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Megan Loftie-Eaton is our communications, social media and citizen science projects coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. Ryan Tippett is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the VMU since 2014 and has currently submitted over 11000 records. He is also on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Rene Navarro is the genius behind the Virtual Museum. Prof Les Underhill has been Director of the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at the University of Cape Town since it started in 1991. Although citizen science in biology is Les’s passion, his academic background is in mathematical statistics.