Phyllanthus acidus

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Flowers and foliage
© Trade winds fruit

Local names:
Burmese (thinbozihpyoo), English (country gooseberry,star gooseberry,plum,Otaheite gooseberry,damsel,Malay gooseberry), Filipino (karmay,bangkiling,iba), French (cerisier de Tahiti), Indonesian (cerme,ceremai,caramele), Lao (Sino-Tibetan) (mak nhom,nhom

Phyllanthus acidus is a  small, glabrous tree up to 10 m tall with phyllanthoid branching, bark rough, grey, with prominent lenticels; cataphylls not persistent, blackish-brown, their stipules triangular-ovate; deciduous branchlets ascending, (20-)25-52 cm long, with 25-40 leaves.

Leaves pinnate, 20-40 cm long. Leaflets alternate, simple, entire, shortly petiolate, broadly ovate to ovate-lanceolate, (4-)5-9 cm x (2-)2.5-4.5 cm, base obtuse to rounded, apex acute, petiole 2.5-4 mm long, stipules triangular-acuminate.

Flowers small, pink, in dense, cushion-shaped cymules at the nodes of leafless branches on older wood, and usually also on proximal branchlets of current year’s growth, pale green to reddish; male flowers 4-merous, filaments and anthers free, dehiscing vertically; female flowers on a stout pedicel, 4-merous, disk deeply lobed or split, styles connate, deeply bifid, staminodes present, ovary superior.

Fruit drupaceous, oblate, 1-1.5 cm x (1.2-)1.5-2(-2.5) cm when fresh, shallowly 6- or 8-lobed, greenish yellow to creamy-white; flesh firm, sour with a hard, bony, grooved stone containing 6-8 smooth seeds.

Phyllanthus, the generic name is derived from the Greek ‘phullon’-leaf and ‘anthos’-flowers from the fact that members of this genus have flowers in dense clusters in leaf axils.


Otaheiti gooseberry grows well in the tropics at low and medium altitudes in places with a short or prolonged dry season. The tree prefers hot, humid tropical lowlands. In north-eastern Brazil, the tree has been found in coastal forest and in Southeast Asia it is cultivated on humid sites, up to 1 000 m altitude.

Native range
Brazil, Colombia

Tree management

It is grown at a spacing of 8 m x 8 m in Indonesia.

Otaheiti gooseberry grows well in the tropics at low and medium altitudes in places with a short or prolonged dry season. The tree prefers hot, humid tropical lowlands. In north-eastern Brazil, the tree has been found in coastal forest and in Southeast Asia it is cultivated on humid sites, up to 1 000 m altitude.

The country gooseberry is generally grown from seed, but vegetative propagation techniques such as budding, greenwood cuttings, cleft grafting or air layering are also used.

Poison:  Extract from the plant has shown nematicidal activity against the pine wood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. The juice of the root bark is weakly poisonous.

  The mature sour fruits may be eaten fresh but usually they are sprinkled with salt to neutralize the acidity. Used in cooking to flavor dishes, the fruits are excellent raw materials for processing into pickle and sweetened dried fruits; fruit juice is used in cold drinks and fruit to make vinegar. In Malaysia, ripe and unripe fruit are served as a relish, syrup or sweet preserve. The fruits, combined with other fruits are used in chutney or jam, because of their setting properties. Young leaves are cooked as a vegetable in Indonesia, Thailand and India.

The tree is used as fuelwood.

Timber:  The wood is fairly hard, strong, tough and durable if seasoned. It is used for utensils and other small objects.

Tannin or dyestuff:  The bark is used in India as a tanning agent.

Medicine: The latex is credited with emetic and purgative activity. In Indonesia the bark is heated with coconut oil and spread on eruptions on feet and hands. An infusion of the root is taken to alleviate asthma in Java. In Borneo, roots are used in the treatment of psoriosis of the feet. A leaf decoction is applied to urticaria, a decoction of the bark is used to treat bronchial catarrh in Philippines. The fruit is used as a laxative in Myanmar. In India, the fruits are taken as a liver tonic to enrich the blood.