Description from Flora of China
Cathetus Loureiro; Cicca Linnaeus; Diasperus Kuntze; Emblica Gaertner; Epistylium Swartz; Eriococcus Hasskarl; Hemicicca Baillon; Kirganelia Jussieu; Macraea Wight; Niruri Adanson; Nymphanthus Loureiro.
Trees, shrubs, or herbs, mostly monoecious, less often dioecious; branching often "phyllanthoid": main stems with spiral phyllotaxy, ultimate branchlets sometimes clustered on short shoots, resembling pinnate leaves and often deciduous as a unit, less often stems all similar with spiral or distichous phyllotaxy; hairs simple, often absent, rarely branched. Leaves alternate, often reduced and scalelike on main stems, strongly distichous on leafy stems; stipules small, deciduous or persistent; petiole short; leaf blade simple, margin entire, venation pinnate. Inflorescences axillary, sometimes at leafless nodes, solitary or in fascicles, cymes, glomerules, racemes, or panicles; pedicels delicate. Male flowers: sepals (2 or)3-6, in 1 or 2 series, free, imbricate, margin entire, eroded, denticulate or fimbriate; petals absent; disk glands 3-6, usually free; stamens 2-6; filaments free or connate; anthers 2-locular, extrorse, thecae 2, connectives obscure, longitudinally or horizontally dehiscent, rarely obliquely so; pistillode absent. Female flowers: sepals as in male or more; disk glands usually small, free or connate into an annulus or urn-shape, surrounding ovary; ovary smooth or less commonly roughened, bullate, or hairy, 3(-12)-locular; ovules 2 per locule; styles 3(-12), apex 2-lobed or 2-branched, rarely entire, erect, spreading, or recurved. Fruit usually a capsule, globose or depressed globose, smooth or warty, dehiscent into 3 2-valved cocci when mature, less often a fleshy berry or drupe; columella persistent. Seeds without caruncle or aril, trigonous, surface smooth, sculptured or striate; seed-coat dry crustaceous, endosperm whitish, cartilaginous; embryo straight or slightly curved; cotyledons usually considerably broader than radical. x = 13.
Molecular studies have shown that several long-established genera nest within Phyllanthus, including Breynia, Phyllanthodendron, Glochidion, and Sauropus.
Phyllanthus acidus (Linnaeus) Skeel is recorded from Taiwan and Hong Kong, where it is presumably cultivated for its edible fruits.
About 750-800 species: primarily in the tropics and subtropics, poorly represented in temperate regions; 32 species (13 endemic, one introduced) in China.
(Authors: Li Bingtao (李秉滔 Li Ping-tao); Michael G. Gilbert)