flower from a leaf-like stem




pronounced: fill-an-THAY-see-eye

the phyllanthus family


Phyllanthus, the name of the type genus, is derived from the Greek φυλλον (phyllon), leaf, and ανθος (anthos), a flower, the plants appearing to flower from a leaf-like stem. Although the name of the family was validly published by Martinov in 1820, it was rarely used for the next 160 years, until the family was separated out from Euphorbiaceae in 2003.

Unlike the Euphorbiaceae, the Phyllanthaceae have no latex, only a very few produce a resinous exudate, their flowers have ovaries with 2 ovules, and their seeds have no caruncle. Almost all members of the family have unisexual flowers, and are frequently monoecious. There are 3 – 8 sepals, usually free from each other. Petals may be absent or present: if they are present, there are usually 4 – 6. A nectary disk is often present; it may be in the form of a ring, or divided into segments. There are usually 3 – 10 stamens, free or variously fused. The ovary is superior, and the fruit is a schizocarp, a drupe or a berry, In some plants, the schizocarp breaks up explosively.


Photograph © Donald Simpson