An antitropical distribution represents an intriguing disjunction, in which a given species or sister lineages occupy regions north and south of the tropics but are absent from the intervening areas. Solenogyne mikadoi endemic to the Ryukyu Archipelago is regarded as an Australian element. Testing the phylogenetic relationship with Australian congeners and discussing the onset timing and causes of the disjunction would potentially enhance the understanding of antitropical distribution. A nuclear ribosomal DNA phylogeny was reconstructed using Bayesian and most parsimonious criteria with allied genera. Solenogyne was monophyletic and clustered with Lagenophora huegelii endemic to Australia, indicating the antitropical distribution and Australian origin of Solenogyne. Multispecies coalescent analysis based on nuclear ribosomal DNA and chloroplast DNA indicated the divergence of S. mikadoi and Australian congeners in the Plio-Pleistocene. Phylogenetic network analyses suggested that the ancestral lineage of S. mikadoi first colonized the southernmost island in the archipelago and then dispersed northward. The migration to the archipelago likely followed the flourishing of Solenogyne in open vegetation communities that radiated in south-eastern Australia during the late Pliocene. This disjunction might arise through long-distance dispersal across the tropics or, alternatively, through extinction in the tropics as a result of unsuitably high temperatures during climate oscillation and/or competitions from diverse tropical flora surviving since the early Tertiary. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 105, 197–217.