Phyllanthus reticulatus

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Local names:
English (Reticulated Leaf-flower)

Phyllanthus reticulatus is a monoecious scandent shrub or small bushy tree, up to 5 m tall (in Africa rarely up to 18 m tall); trunk up to 15 cm in diameter, bark rough, brown to grey, branchlets slender.

Leaves differently shaped; spirally arranged scale-like, ca. 1.5 mm long on the orthotropic shoots; plagiotropic shoots with normally developed, distichous, elliptic to (ob)ovate leaves, 1-3(-5) cm x 0.5-2(-2.5) cm, entire, cuneate to rounded at base, obtuse to emarginate at apex, glabrous and shortly petiolate.

Flowers in few-flowered fascicles or solitary in leaf axils, unisexual, often a single female flower and some male flowers together, sometimes arranged on leafless shoots and those then seemingly long racemes, with 5(-6) perianth lobes and 5(-6) disk glands; male flowers with 5(-6) stamens; female flowers with a superior subglobose ovary, crowned by 2-lobed styles.

Fruit a depressed-globose berry, up to 7 mm in diameter, usually blueish-black when ripe with dark purplish pulp, 6-many-seeded.

Seeds trigonous up to 2 mm long, blackish.

The indumentum of leaves, stem and flowers is variable, from glabrous to densely pubescent.

In Africa, 2 varieties have been distinguished: var. reticulatus with pubescent flowering shoots and sometimes also leaves and stems, and var. glaber (Thwaites) Muell. Arg. with all parts glabrous.


P. reticulatus frequently grows along watercourses, but also in scrub and hedges, on waste places, and in mixed evergreen forest.  It is found in India and Taiwan up to 2000 m altitude.  This species is often common in moist places.

Native range
China, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka

Tree management



P. reticulatus frequently grows along watercourses, but also in scrub and hedges, on waste places, and in mixed evergreen forest.  It is found in India and Taiwan up to 2000 m altitude.  This species is often common in moist places.


Timber: The wood is hard and tough, and greyish-white to reddish. The wood is sometimes used to make utensils.

Tannin or dyestuff: A black ink is prepared in the Philippines from the ripe fruits.  In Indonesia a decoction of stem and leaves was used for dyeing cotton black.  It is also used as a mordant.  In India the root is reported to produce a red dye.

Medicine: P. reticulatus has numerous medicinal uses.  Roots, bark, leaves, as well as fruits are used for a large number of complaints, notably to treat asthma and coughs, and for injuries of the skin.