Description: Herbs, shrubs, trees or rarely climbers, monoecious or dioecious, lacking latex.
Leaves usually alternate (rarely opposite), usually simple (rarely compound or absent); stipules present, sometimes caducous.
Inflorescences axillary, often a solitary flower, or terminal cymes or corymbs. Flowers actinomorphic, usually unisexual. Sepals 3–8, free. Petals as many as sepals or fewer, sometimes absent. Male flowers with 3–10 (–numerous) stamens, free or partly fused; anthers 2-celled, dehiscing by longitudinal slits or sometimes by apical pores; rudimentary ovary sometimes present. Female flowers with superior ovary, usually 3-locular (sometimes up to 15-celled), ovules 2 in each loculus (generally only 1 developing); styles usually 3, free or variously united, entire, 2-lobed or sometimes many-lobed; staminodes sometimes present; nectary disc sometimes present below ovary.
Fruit mostly a 3-locular capsule, often schizocarpic, rarely a berry or a drupe.
Distribution and occurrence: World: 59 genera, 2330 species, pantropical, some temperate. Australia: 16 genera, all States.
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Phyllanthaceae, Order: Malpighiales)
Previously treated as subfamily Phyllanthoideae in Euphorbiaceae. Can be distinguished from Euphorbiaceae by having 2 ovules per locule of the ovary, and in the absence of latex from structures (Flora of Victoria, accessed May 2017). Note, although each locule of the ovary has 2 ovules, only 1 may develop in fruit.
Text by (compiled) May 2017 (PGK)
Taxon concept: Australian Plant Census (accessed May 2017)
| ||Key to the genera|| |
|1||Herb or shrub; leaves to 15 mm wide||2|
|Shrub or tree; leaves mostly more than 15 mm wide||5|
|2||Inflorescences terminal (corymbs)||Poranthera|
Back to 1
|3||Fruit succulent, a berry; styles unbranched||Breynia|
|Fruit dry, a schizocarpic capsule; styles bifid|
Back to 2
|4||Flowers with a disc or glands; fruit depressed-globose, wider than long||Phyllanthus|
|Flowers without a disc or glands; fruit ovoid or more or less globose, often longer than wide|
Back to 3
|5||Petioles often more than 10 mm long||Actephila|
|Petioles less than 10 mm long|
Back to 1
|6||Leaves with 12–15 pairs of secondary veins||Bridelia|
|Leaves with less than 12 pairs of secondary veins|
Back to 5
|7||Leaves distinctly 2-ranked and mostly pseudopinnate in arrangement||8|
|Leaves not distinctly 2-ranked, never pseudopinnate in arrangement|
Back to 6
|8||Lamina less than 30 mm long, glabrous, glaucous below, drying black above; fruit less than 5 mm diam.||Breynia|
|Lamina more than 40 mm long, glabrous or finely pubescent, not glaucous below, not drying black; fruit more than 8 mm diam.|
Back to 7