Phyllanthus reticulatus (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Phyllanthus reticulatus Poiret

Protologue: Lamk, Encycl. Méth. Bot. 5: 298 (1804).
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 26


  • Phyllanthus multiflorus Willd. (1805),
  • Phyllanthus microcarpus (Benth.) Muell. Arg. (1863),
  • Phyllanthus dalbergioides Wallich ex J.J. Smith (1910),
  • Phyllanthus erythrocarpus Ridley (1923),
  • Kirganelia reticulata (Poiret) Baillon (1858).

Vernacular names

  • Indonesia: wawulutan (Sundanese), trembilu, congcong belut (Javanese)
  • Malaysia: tampal besi, kayu darah belut
  • Philippines: malatinta (Tagalog), matang-buiud (Bikol), sungot-olang (Bisaya)
  • Cambodia: prâpéénh chhmôôl
  • Laos: am ai2, kang2pa
  • Thailand: kaang plaa khruea (general), mat kham (Phrae), am aai (Nakhon Ratchasima)
  • Vietnam: phèn den, cây nỗ.

Origin and geographic distribution

P. reticulatus is widespread in the Old World tropics, from tropical Africa to Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, southern China, Thailand and throughout the Malesian region towards northern Australia (Queensland); it has been introduced into the West Indies.


A black ink is prepared in the Philippines from the ripe fruits. In Indonesia a decoction of stems 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.

P. reticulatus has numerous medicinal uses. Roots, bark, leaves, as well as fruits are used for a large number of complaints. In Peninsular Malaysia, stems and leaves of what is probably P. reticulatus are rubbed onto the chest to alleviate asthma, whereas a decoction of leaves is used to treat a sore throat. In the Philippines, a decoction of the leaves or bark is used for its diuretic, alterative, depurative, refrigerant and odontalgic properties, and the leaves can be applied to the abdomen as a remedy for pinworms. An infusion of the bark is a cure for dysentery and an infusion of the roots for asthma. In Indo-China, P. reticulatus is used to treat smallpox and syphilis. In southern Africa, dried and powdered leaves are dusted over wounds to aid the healing process.

The wood is sometimes used to make utensils.


Very little is known about the phytochemistry of P. reticulatus . The plant contains tannic acid which is partly responsible for its medicinal and dyeing properties. A number of triterpenoids including sitosterol, friedelin, and betulinic acid have been demonstrated in the stems and leaves.

The wood is hard and tough, and greyish-white to reddish.


  • A monoecious, glabrous to pubescent, scandent shrub or small bushy tree, up to 5 m tall (in Africa rarely up to 18 m tall), with disagreeable scent, with phyllanthoid branching; trunk up to 15 cm in diameter, bark rough, brown to grey; deciduous slender branchlets steeply ascending, (8.5-)10-20(-25) cm long, with (10-)13-20(-25) leaves.
  • 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 × 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 in two sets, one with longer filaments fused into a central column and one with shorter, free filaments, anthers free, dehiscing longitudinally; 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, nearly smooth, blackish.

P. reticulatus generally flowers throughout the year. The indumentum of leaves, stems 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. In Malesia it is usually confined to the lowlands, up to 800 m. This species is often common in moist places.


Very little is known about this plant. Chemical analysis is needed to elucidate the interesting dyeing and medicinal properties of this extremely widespread species.


  • Backer, C.A. & Bakhuizen van den Brink, R.C., 1963. Flora of Java. Vol. 1. Noordhoff, Groningen, the Netherlands. p. 467.
  • Crevost, Ch. & Pételot, A., 1941. Catalogue des produits de l'Indochine. Tome 6. Tannins et tinctoriaux. Gouvernement général de l'Indochine, Hanoi. p. 72 + fig.
  • Dalziel, J.M., 1936. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London. p. 158.
  • Sastri, B.N. (Editor), 1959. The wealth of India. Raw materials. Vol. 5. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. pp. 320-321.

97, 190, 202, 580, 842, 1035, 1126, 1128, 1135, 1178, 1187, 1380, 1476, 1525, 1555, 1564. medicinals

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