Phyllanthus acidus (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Phyllanthus acidus (L.) Skeels

Protologue: U.S. Dept. Agric. Bur. Pl. Industry Bull. 148: 17 (1909).
Family: Euphorbiaceae


  • Phyllanthus acidissimus (Blanco) Muell. Arg. (1863),
  • Phyllanthus distichus (L.) Muell. Arg. (1866),
  • Cicca acida (L.) Merr. (1917).

Vernacular names

  • Otaheite gooseberry, Malay gooseberry, country gooseberry (En)
  • Cerisier de Tahiti (Fr)
  • Indonesia: ceremoi (Aceh), ceremai, cereme, cerme (Indonesian), caramele (southern Sulawesi)
  • Malaysia: chermai, chermala, kemangur
  • Philippines: iba (Tagalog), bangkiling (Bisaya), karmay (Ilokano)
  • Burma: thinbozi-hpyoo
  • Cambodia: kântûët, kântouot srôk
  • Laos: nhôm baanz, mak nhom, nhom ban2
  • Thailand: mayom (general)
  • Vietnam: chùm ruôt, tầm ruôt


P. acidus is probably native to the coastal region of north-eastern Brazil, but since time immemorial it has been cultivated, mainly as a fruit tree, in tropical Asia from India to Malesia and Polynesia, and on all larger islands of the West Indies. Within Malesia it has not yet been reported from New Guinea.


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. In Java, an infusion of the root is taken to alleviate asthma. In Borneo, roots are used in the treatment of psoriasis of the feet. Although the roots are weakly poisonous, in Malaysia they used to be boiled and the vapour inhaled to relieve cough and headache. In the Philippines, leaf decoctions are applied to urticaria, and a decoction of the bark is used to treat bronchial catarrh. In Burma (Myanmar), the fruit is used as a laxative. In India, the fruits are taken as a liver tonic to enrich the blood. The juice of the root bark is reported to have been employed in criminal poisonings.

The acid fruits are eaten raw (with sugar) or cooked and prepared in numerous ways. The fruit flesh is added to many dishes in Indonesia as a flavouring. In the Philippines, the fruit juice is used to make cold drinks and the fruit to make vinegar. In Malaysia, ripe and unripe fruits are served as a relish, syrup or sweet preserve. The fruits are also combined with other fruits in making chutney or jam, because of their setting properties. Young leaves are cooked as a vegetable in Indonesia, Thailand and India. The wood is fairly hard, strong, tough and durable if seasoned. The bark has limited use in India as a tanning agent.


  • A monoecious, 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 arranged like a pinnate leaf along the branches, broadly ovate to ovate-lanceolate, (4-)5-9 cm × (2-)2.5-4.5 cm, base obtuse to rounded, apex acute, petiole 2.5-4 mm long, stipules triangular-acuminate.
  • Flowers in dense, cushion-shaped cymules at the nodes of leafless branchlets 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.
  • Fruit drupaceous, oblate, 1-1.5 cm × (1.2-)1.5-2(-2.5) cm when fresh, shallowly 6- or 8-lobed, greenish-yellow to creamy-white.
  • Seeds 4-6, smooth.

In north-eastern Brazil P. acidus has been found in coastal forest. In South-East Asia it is cultivated on humid sites, up to 1000 m altitude. Propagation usually by seed, but also by budding or cutting.

Selected sources

  • [97] Backer, C.A. & Bakhuizen van den Brink Jr, R.C., 1963-1968. Flora of Java. 3 volumes. Noordhoff, Groningen, the Netherlands. Vol. 1 (1963) 647 pp., Vol. 2 (1965) 641 pp., Vol. 3 (1968) 761 pp.
  • [190] Brown, W.H., 1951-1957. Useful plants of the Philippines. Reprint of the 1941-1943 edition. 3 volumes. Technical Bulletin 10. Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Bureau of Printing, Manila, the Philippines. Vol. 1 (1951) 590 pp., Vol. 2 (1954) 513 pp., Vol. 3 (1957) 507 pp.
  • [202] Burkill, I.H., 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Revised reprint. 2 volumes. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Vol. 1 (A-H) pp. 1-1240. Vol. 2 (I-Z) pp. 1241-2444.
  • [287] Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1948-1976. The wealth of India: a dictionary of Indian raw materials & industrial products. 11 volumes. Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi, India.
  • [580] Heyne, K., 1950. De nuttige planten van Indonesië [The useful plants of Indonesia]. 3rd Edition. 2 volumes. W. van Hoeve, 's-Gravenhage, the Netherlands/Bandung, Indonesia. 1660 + CCXLI pp.
  • [641] IBPGR, 1986. Genetic resources of tropical and subtropical fruits and nuts (excluding Musa). International Board of Plant Genetic Resources, Rome, Italy. 162 pp.
  • [697] Kalshoven, L.G.E., 1950-1951. De plagen van cultuurgewassen in Indonesië [The pests of crops in Indonesia]. 2 volumes. van Hoeve, 's-Gravenhage, the Netherlands.
  • [900] Mansfeld, R., 1986. Verzeichnis landwirtschaflicher und gaertnerischer Kulturpflanzen (ohne Zierpflanzen) [Register of agricultural and horticultural plants (withouth ornamentals)]. 2nd Edition, revised by J. Schultze-Motel. 4 volumes. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 1998 pp.
  • [980] Morton, J.F., 1987. Fruits of warm climates. J.F. Morton, Miami, United States. 505 pp.
  • [1035] Nguyen Van Duong, 1993. Medicinal plants of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Mekong Printing, Santa Ana, California, United States. 528 pp.
  • [1126] Perry, L.M., 1980. Medicinal plants of East and Southeast Asia. Attributed properties and uses. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States & London, United Kingdom. 620 pp.
  • [1128] Pételot, A., 1952-1954. Les plantes médicinales du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam [The medicinal plants of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam]. 4 volumes. Centre National de Recherches Scientifiques et Techniques, Saigon, Vietnam.
  • [1178] Quisumbing, E., 1978. Medicinal plants of the Philippines. Katha Publishing Co., Quezon City, the Philippines. 1262 pp.
  • [1211] Rehm, S. (Editor), 1989. Handbuch der Landwirtschaft und Ernahrung in den Entwicklungsländern. Band 4. Spezieller Pflanzenbau in den Tropen und Subtropen [Handbook of agriculture and nutrition in developing countries. Vol. 4. Special crop cultivation in the tropics and subtropics]. 2nd Edition. E. Ulmer, Stuttgart, Germany. 653 pp.
  • [1212] Rehm, S. & Espig, G., 1991. The cultivated plants of the tropics and subtropics. Cultivation, economic value, utilization. Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Co-operation (CTA), Ede, the Netherlands & Verlag Josef Margraf, Weikersheim, Germany. 552 pp.
  • Ridley, H.N., 1922-1925. The Flora of the Malay Peninsula. 5 Volumes. Government of the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States. L. Reeve & Co., London.
  • [1476] Tran Dinh Ly, 1993. 1900 Loai cay co ich o Viet nam [1900 useful plant species in Vietnam]. Hanoi, Vietnam. 544 pp.
  • [1521] Verheij, E.W.M. & Coronel, R.E. (Editors), 1991. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 2. Edible fruits and nuts. Pudoc, Wageningen, the Netherlands. 446 pp.
  • [1555] Webster, G.L., 1956-1958. A monographic study of the West Indian species of Phyllanthus. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 37: 91-122, 217-268, 340-359; 38: 51-80, 170-198, 295-373; 39: 49-100, 111-212.

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