The genus Phyllanthus

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I knew nothing about the family Phyllanthaceae (which was formerly a subfamily in the Euphorbiaceae), and I had never knowingly seen a plant in that family, until April 25th 2017, when I first noticed a plant which I believe was the species Phyllanthus amarus aka "Gale of the Wind" in Charlestown, the capital of Nevis, St Kitts and Nevis, Leeward Islands, West Indies:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/5952213

At that point in time I did not know what the plant was, but with major assistance from two other talented and hardworking iNatters, (thank you @nathantaylor, and thank you @adorantes) we were able to put an ID on it.

The common name of this species is "Gale of the Wind". I wonder if it got that name because, like many of the species in that genus, the flowers and fruits hang under the leaf in a way that strikes one as very peculiar the first time you see it -- maybe the "Gale" that blew was so strong that it simply blew the flowers and fruits completely round onto the underside of the plant?

Once I had noticed one of these Gale of the Wind plants, I started seeing them all over the place on Nevis. Two years later, in 2019 on Nevis, I photographed 28 of the plants.

Then in December 2019, my husband and I were staying on the island of Sanibel, Lee County, Florida. I photographed two Phyllanthus plants which were growing in an unkempt roadside verge near Blue Dolphin Cottages, where we stay when we are there. I still don't really have IDs on those two.

They both have flowers and fruit on long stems on top of the leaves like P. tenellus, so maybe that is what they are:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/36476887

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/36476891

Then this year, in March of 2020, during an unfortunately very abbreviated stay (due to a sudden pandemic-related shut-down of the country) at Oualie Beach Hotel on Nevis, St Kitts & Nevis, West Indies, I photographed more Phyllanthus amara around the hotel grounds while we were in voluntary quarantine there, including this plant:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/40255860

Also on the hotel grounds, on March 23, by dint of a lot of searching, I was able to find another species of Phyllanthus -- one individual of Phyllanthus tenellus, the Mascarene Island Leaf Flower:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/40599460

Then during August of this year, 2020, while I was back in New York City, in the French Garden part of the Conservatory Garden, in Central Park, I discovered that several plants of Chamberbitter, Phyllanthus urinaria, were growing as weeds among the immature Korean Chrysanthemum plants. I made 12 observations of the plants on several different days, including these observations:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/56076121

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/56551136

Then finally, on September 20th and 28th 2020, in New York City, first in Tompkins Square Park, and then at the edge of a flower bed on 59th Street near 12th Avenue, I found in each place, one plant of the Mascarene Island Leaf Flower, Phyllanthus tenellus, the same species that I had been able to find one example of on Nevis, back in March of this same year.

Tompkins Square Park:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/60249235

59th Street on the West Side:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/61159373

Daniel Atha was able to find three of the plants in that bed on 59th Street, and so he took one of them to press for the NYBG herbarium, because it is important to make a permanent record of this species, which was not known before from NYC or NY State.

He got me to write a little paper about it (with him as co-author) which we have submitted already and it should be out very soon, probably in the "New York Flora Association Quarterly Newsletter, Fall 2020, Volume 31, Issue 4 pages xx - xx.".

Now I feel that I am starting to get acquainted with the interesting genus, Phyllanthus. According to the Wikipedia article there are somewhere between 750 and 1200 species worldwide in this genus, so I guess there are plenty of possibilities out there for running into more of them!

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Posted on October 01, 2020 07:46 PM by susanhewitt susanhewitt

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Mascarene Island Leaf-Flower (Phyllanthus tenellus)

Observer

susanhewitt

Date

September 25, 2023 03:56 PM EDT

Comments

Now, in September 2023, in a tree pit on the south side of 79th Street, very near York Ave, I discovered a large plant of Phyllanthus tenellus growing alongside of numerous Coleus and Begonia plants.

See the image shown above this.

Posted by susanhewitt 7 months ago

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