Phyllanthaceae (Leafflower family)

Description. Deciduous tree with a spreading growth habit, 5-8 m (16-26 ft) tall. Alternate, compound leaves 16-28 cm (6.3-11 in) long. Leaflets ovate to lanceolate, blue-green and 4-7 cm (1.62.8 in) long. Small pink monoecious or hermaphroditic flowers are borne in panicles 8-12 cm (3-5 in) long. Pale yellow fruits are produced in often dense masses directly on the trunk and branches. Oblate fruits with smooth, waxy skin, 1.5-2 cm (0.6-0.8 in) wide with 6-8 distinct ribs. The crisp, juicy, very sour-tasting flesh encloses a stone with 4-6 seeds.


Origin and Distribution. Probably native to Madagascar, from where it spread to India and Southeast Asia in prehistoric times. The tree grows in subtropical or tropical climates with or without a prolonged dry season. Today the plant is of pantrop-ical distribution and has been naturalized in many areas. Commonly cultivated in Southeast Asia as a dooryard tree.

Food uses. The sour-tasting fruits are eaten raw, often sprinkled with sugar. More often they are candied or cooked and made into chutneys, pickles, relishes, or preserves. In Thailand, the fruits are pickled with sugar and chilies and sold as snacks in local markets. In tropical Asia, the fruits are added to savory dishes like curries and seafood. Fruits are boiled with sugar, strained, and cooled to make a refreshing fruit drink. Cooking with sugar turns the yellow fruits dark red. Tender young leaves and shoots are eaten in India and Southeast Asia as a cooked vegetable.

Comments. This beautiful tree with its spectacular fruiting habit is often cultivated as an exotic ornamental.

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