Photo: Unknown © ANBG

Line drawing by M. Perkins (from L.Haegi, unpubl. thesis).


Anthocercis littorea Labill., Nov. Holl. Pl. 2: 19, t. 158 (1806)

 T: `Habitat in terrâ Van-Leuwin' (south-western W.A.), Labillardière s.n.; syn: FI, G, P.

 A. glabella Miers, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist., ser. 2, 11: 373 (1853).

T: Fremantle, W.A., Gilbert s.n.; n.v.


Erect, rarely sprawling, shrub to 3 m, much-branched from base, the branches and leaves glabrous; seedlings with scattered prickles on stem.

Leaves obovate to narrowly obovate, sometimes spathulate, sessile or almost so, 18–65 mm long, 4–31 mm wide, usually thick and fleshy, entire, or juvenile leaves dentate.

Inflorescence raceme-like, leafy; pedicels 2.5–7.5 mm long. Calyx 4–7.5 mm long. Corolla 14–32 mm long, yellow or pale yellow, the striations brown, purple-brown or maroon; lobes linear, 10– 25 mm long, 2–4 mm wide. Stamens 3–8 mm long.

Capsule narrowly ovoid to narrowly ovoid-ellipsoid, acute to acuminate or apiculate, 9–19 mm long. Seeds 1.5–1.9 mm long.

Distribution and ecology

Endemic in south-western W.A. along the southern and western coasts, extending north to Geraldton.

Grows in calcareous sand; a colonising species common after fire or disturbance.

Common name

Yellow Tailflower


Easily confused with A. ilicifolia Hook. with which it is sympatric on the west coast; distinguished by the much-branched habit, leafy inflorescence, and corolla size and shape.

Fruit are often malformed due to galling. This is caused by a recently described gall midge, Asphondylia anthocercidis Kolesik. 

Reference: Kolesik, P. Whittemore, R. & Stace, H.M. (1997). Asphondylia anthocercidis, a new species of Cecidomyiidae (Diptera) inducing fruit galls on Anthocercis littorea (Solanaceae) in Western Australia Trans. R. Soc. S. Aust. 121: 157-161.

Suspected of poisoning stock; rarely known to have poisoned children.

Phylogenetic studies by Garcia & Olmstead (2003) on the Tribe Anthocercideae using two chloroplast DNA regions included this species. The studies indicated that Anthocercis is monophyletic.

Reference: V.F.Garcia & R.G.Olmstead (2003). Phylogenetics of Tribe Anthocercideaea (Solanaceae) based on ndhF and trnL/F sequence data. Systematic Botany 28: 609-615.


Selected specimens

W.A.: Geraldton, R. Coveny 3041 (NSW, PERTH); c. 3 km NE of Esperance, L. Haegi 1245 (AD, BRI, CANB, F, PERTH); c. 13 km W of Denmark, 13 Sept. 1963, J.H. Willis (MEL).

Derivation of epithet

From the Latin, littoreus, pertaining to the sea-shore, a reference to the usual habitat of this species

Images and information on web

Close-up images of the flowers and leaves of A. littorea can be seen on

Pharmacology: A discussion of the tropane alkaloids which occur in Anthocercis and other Anthocercideae can be found in Griffith & Lin (2000). A. littorea has a similar profile to A. ilicifolia.

Ref: W.J. Griffin & G.D. Lin (2000). Chemotaxonomy and geographical distribution of tropane alkaloids. Phytochemistry 53: 627–628.

References to the possible toxic properties of Anthocercis species can be found with a search in the FDA Poisonous Plant Database