Indian gooseberry Phyllanthus officinalis, photographed by L. Shyamal.

Belongs within: Malpighiales.

The Phyllanthaceae are a pantropical family of flowering plants, treated in the past as a subgroup of the Euphorbiaceae but now separated due to their distinct phylogenetic position within the Malpighiales (Davis et al. 2007). They often have finely-cracking bark, two-ranked and entire leaves lacking glands, and explosively dehiscent fruits (Angiosperm Phylogeny Website). Some species of Phyllanthus are utilised for food: for instance, the sour fruits of Phyllanthus acidus and P. officinalis are used in pickles (Polunin 1988). Bischofia javanica, bishop wood, is used for wood for building; it is native to southern Asia and Australasia and has been introduced to North America.

Characters (from the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website): Herbs to trees; plants aluminium accumulators; cyanogenesis via the tyrosine pathway, tropane and pyrrolizidine alkaloids, cucurbitacins, nonhydrolysable tannins present, ellagic acid absent; vessel elements with simple or scalariform perforation plates; leaves on orthotropic axes often reduced, spiral, on plagiotropic axes two-ranked (occasionally spiral), involute or conduplicate, margins entire (sometimes toothed); calyx 2-8(-12) sepals, often basally connate, corolla (0, 3-)5(-9) petals, disc extra- or interstaminal (sometimes absent or central); staminate flowers: anthers 2-35, often more or less connate, extrorse, pollen reticulate; carpellate flowers: gynoecium 1 [2-5(-15)], outer integument 2-many and inner integument 2-3(-5) cells across, nucellus 10 or more cells across, protruding, obturator placental, styles usually bifid, stigmas with adaxial furrow, wet; fruit a septicidal capsule/schizocarp; seeds large; tegmen 2-5(-20) cells thick, exotegmen with ribbon-like cells (smetimes radially elongated); endosperm copious (occasionally absent).

    |  i. s.: Notoleptopus decaisnei LK14
    |--+--Aporosa XR12
    |  `--Bischofia [Bischofiaceae] XR12
    |       `--B. javanica C78
    `--+--+--Lachnostylis XR12
       |  `--Croizatia XR12
       `--+--Heywoodia XR12
          `--+--Flueggea XR12
             |    |--F. suffruticosa XR12
             |    `--F. virosa LK14
             |         |--F. v. ssp. virosa LK14
             |         `--F. v. ssp. melanthesoides LK14
             `--Phyllanthus [Phyllanthoideae] XR12
                  |--P. acidus [=Cicca acida] P88
                  |--P. airy-shawii MS03
                  |--P. amarus LK14
                  |--P. aridus LK14
                  |--P. beddomei (Gamble) Mohanan 1985 [=Reidia beddomei Gamble 1925] VR02
                  |--P. calycinus KM08
                  |--P. caribeus GA97
                  |--P. clarkei Hooker 1887 MS03
                  |--P. dinteri CV06
                  |--P. emblica P03
                  |--P. exilis LK14
                  |--P. ferdinandi M87
                  |--P. fraternus KJ05
                  |--P. fuernrohrii KM08
                  |--P. gasstroemii H90
                  |--P. gunnii H90
                  |--P. hebecarpus H90
                  |--P. hirtellus [incl. P. thymoides] H90
                  |--P. lacerosus LK14
                  |--P. lacunarius H90
                  |--P. lacunellus H90
                  |--P. lamprophyllus HM03
                  |--P. lindenianus J87
                  |    |--P. l. var. lindenianus J87
                  |    `--P. l. var. inaequifolius J87
                  |--P. maderaspatanus H90
                  |--P. myriophyllus J87
                  |--P. niruri C55
                  |--P. officinalis [=Emblica officinalis] P88
                  |--P. parvifolius Don 1825 [incl. P. juniperinus Wallich ex Mueller-Argoviensis 1863] MS03
                  |--P. polyphyllus UB06
                  |--P. praetervisus Mueller-Argoviensis 1865 (see below for synonymy) MS03
                  |--P. pseudoparvifolius Mitra & Sanjappa 2003 MS03
                  |--P. reticulatus LK14
                  |--P. rotundifolius Klein ex Willdenow 1805 A02
                  |--P. similis H90
                  |--P. subcrenulatus H90
                  |--P. tenellus K10
                  |--P. urinaria XR12
                  |--P. virgatus [incl. P. filicaulis, P. minutiflorus, P. simplex] H90
                  `--P. watsonii P88

Phyllanthus praetervisus Mueller-Argoviensis 1865 [=P. juniperinus var. obovatus Mueller-Argoviensis 1863] MS03

*Type species of generic name indicated


[A02] Augustine S. J., Fr. K. T. 2002. Rediscovery of Phyllanthus rotundifolius Klein ex Willd., Euphorbiaceae, after 101 years (1899-2000) in Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, south India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 99 (3): 562–564.

[C55] Candolle, A. de. 1855. Géographie Botanique Raisonée: Ou exposition des faits principaux et des lois concernant la distribution géographique des plantes de l’époque actuelle vol. 2. Librairie de Victor Masson: Paris.

[C78] Clunie, N. M. U. 1978. The vegetation. In: Womersley, J. S. (ed.) Handbooks of the Flora of Papua New Guinea vol. 1 pp. 1–11. Melbourne University Press: Carlton South (Australia).

[CV06] Craven, P., & P. Vorster. 2006. Patterns of plant diversity and endemism in Namibia. Bothalia 36 (2): 175–189.

[GA97] Gillespie, L. J., & W. S. Armbruster. 1997. A contribution to the Guianan flora: Dalechampia, Haematostemon, Omphalea, Pera, Plukenetia, and Tragia (Euphorbiaceae) with notes on subfamily Acalyphoideae. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 86: 1–48.

[H90] Harden, G. J. (ed.) 1990. Flora of New South Wales vol. 1. New South Wales University Press.

[HM03] Holloway, J. D., & S. E. Miller. 2003. The composition, generic placement and host-plant relationships of the joviana-group in the Parallelia generic complex (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae, Catocalinae). Invertebrate Systematics 17: 111–128.

[J87] Judd, W. S. 1987. Floristic study of Morne La Visite and Pic Macaya National Parks, Haiti. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum—Biological Sciences 32 (1): 1–136.

[K10] Keighery, G. 2010. The naturalised vascular plants of the Pilbara region, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 78 (1): 299–311.

[KJ05] Katewa, S. S., A. Jain, B. L. Chaudhary & P. Galav. 2005. Some unreported medicinal uses of plants from the tribal area of Southern Rajasthan. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 47: 121–130.

[KM08] Keighery, G. J., & W. Muir. 2008. Vegetation and vascular flora of Faure Island, Shark Bay, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 75: 11–19.

[LK14] Lyons, M. N., G. J. Keighery, L. A. Gibson & T. Handasyde. 2014. Flora and vegetation communities of selected islands off the Kimberley coast of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 81: 205–244.

[MS03] Mitra, R. L., & M. Sanjappa. 2003. Phyllanthus parvifolius, P. clarkei (Euphorbiaceae) and related Indian taxa. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 45: 1–20.

[M87] Mueller, F. von. 1887. Some hitherto undescribed plants of New South Wales. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, series 2, 1 (4): 1105–1110.

[P03] Paul, T. K. 2003. Botanical observations on the Purulia pumped storage hydropower project area, Bagmundi Hills, Purulia district, West Bengal. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 45: 121–142.

[P88] Polunin, I. 1988. Plants and Flowers of Malaysia. Times Editions: Singapore.

[UB06] Udayan, P. S., & I. Balachandran. 2006. Cleistanthus sankunnianus Sivar. & Indu Balach.—a rare and little known endemic plant rediscovered from wild populations in Kollam district of Kerala state, India. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 48: 217–218.

[VR02] Viswanathan, M. B., N. Ramesh, M. Maridass & U. Manikandan. 2002. Rediscovery of a critically endangered species Phyllanthus beddomei (Gamble) Mohanan, Euphorbiaceae, from Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 99 (3): 560–562.

[XR12] Xi, Z., B. R. Ruhfel, H. Schaefer, A. M. Amorim, M. Sugumaran, K. J. Wurdack, P. K. Endress, M. L. Matthews, P. F. Stevens, S. Mathews & C. C. Davis. 2012. Phylogenomics and a posteriori data partitioning resolve the Cretaceous angiosperm radiation Malpighiales. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 109 (43): 17519–17524.

Last updated: 26 June 2021.

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