Phyllanthus debilis
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Close-up views:

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Young plant:

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Plant Notes

| Last updated: December 2022 |

The current accepted botanical name of this plant that include its authors should be Phyllanthus debilis J.G.Klein ex Willd where “ex” means that J.G. Klein had updated the description of the plant on top of the original description by Willdenow in the past.

I came across a 2004 publication [1] that outlined an interesting and yet complex evolution of the botanical name of this plant, Phyllanthus debilis and another plant which used this same name in the past.

In 1805, Willdenow named a new plant that he described as Phyllanthus debilis. Unaware that the name was taken, J.D. Hooker described another new plant using this same botanical name in 1887. Of course, both plants were not the same one. According to the convention within the botanical community, the name should stay with the first plant while the subsequent used on another plant is invalid.

In 1984, Brunel & Roux named a new plant from Thailand as Phyllanthus airyshawii. This plant was later determined to be the Phyllanthus debilis described by J.D. Hooker in 1887. Since Phyllanthus debilis is an invalid name of that plant, the second in line, Phyllanthus airyshawii took over as the accepted botanical name for that new plant.

This was not the end of the identity crisis of this new plant. In 2002, Chaudhary & Rao made a discovery that there was another name given to this plant before Brunel & Roux did so. That happened in 1977 where Sivarajan & Manilal named the plant as Phyllanthus kozhikodianus. Based on the same norm of the botanical naming convention, the name Phyllanthus airyshawii had to give way to Phyllanthus kozhikodianus and itself being downgraded to a synonym.

Subsequently in 2004, another group of experts disputed the finding from Chaudhary & Rao. They determined that Phyllanthus kozhikodianus is a different plant and not the same plant as Phyllanthus airyshawii based on the description of the plant in their publication. Hence, Phyllanthus airyshawii was resurrected to be valid botanical name once again. Also, they downgraded the name Phyllanthus kozhikodianus to be a synonym of another plant, Phyllanthus rheedei.

So far, the entire saga summarized above has nothing to do with the original Phyllanthus debilis described by Willdenow in 1805. But, something is likely to change soon. Based on an updated classification published in 2022 [2], Phyllanthus debilis is now being designated as a basionym of Moeroris debilis.


[1] Gangopadhyay M, Chakrabarty T, Balakrishnan NP. On the status of Phyllanthus airyshawii and P. kozhikodianus (Euphorbiaceae). J Econ Taxon Bot 2004;28(3):585-590. | Read article |

[2] Bouman RW, Kebler PJA, Telford IRH, Bruhl JJ, Strijk JS, Saunders RMK, Esser H, Falcón-Hidalgo B, Van PC. A revised phylogenetic classification of tribe Phyllantheae (Phyllanthaceae). Phytotaxa 2022;540(1):1-100. | Read article |

Online Resources

| Plants of the World Online | Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GRIF) | Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) | Flora of Peninsular India |


[2021] Verma A, Pathak P, Rimac H, Khalilullah H, Kumar V, Grishina M, Potemkin V, Ahmed B. A triterpene glochidon from Phyllanthus debilis: Isolation, computational studies, and antidiabetic activity evaluation. Biocatalysis Agri Biotech 2021;36:102138. | Read abstract |

[2019] Malayaman V, Mohamed SS, Senthilkumar RP, Basha MG. Analysis of phytochemical constituents in leaves of Bhumyamalaki (Phyllanthus debilis Klein ex Willd.) from Servaroy hills, Tamil Nadu, India. J Pharm Phytochem 2019;8(1):2678-2683. | Read article |

[2018] Levin GA, Wilder GJ, McCollom JM. Phyllanthus debilis (Phyllanthaceae) newly reported for North America. J Bot Res Inst Texas 2018;12(1):245-248. | Read article |

[2017] V M, N S, R P S, S SM, R R, M GB. Chitosan mediated enhancement of hydrolysable tannin in Phyllanthus debilis, Klein ex Willd via plant cell suspension culture. Int J Biol Macromol 2017;104(Pt B):1656-1663. | Read abstract |

[2016] Perera HKI. Phyllanthus debilis: A poorly investigated plant with antidiabetic effects. Int J Pharma Sci Res 2016;7(6);261-265. | Read article |

[2016] Perera D, Soysa P, Wijeratne S. Polyphenols contribute to the antioxidant and antiproliferative activity of Phyllanthus debilis plant in-vitro. BMC Complement Altern Med 2016;16(1):339. | Read article |

[2009] Wanniarachchi KK, Peiris LDC, Ratnasooriya WD. Antihyperglycemic and hypoglycemic activities of Phyllanthus debilis aqueous plant extract in mice. Pharm Biol 2009;47(3);260-265. | Read article |

[2009] Ahmed B, Khan S, Verma A, Habibullah. Antihepatotoxic activity of debelalactone, a new oxirano-furanocoumarin from Phyllanthus debilis. J Asian Nat Prod Res 2009;11(8):687-692. | Read abstract |

[2008] Jain N, Shasany AK, Singh S, Khanuja SP, Kumar S. SCAR markers for correct identification of Phyllanthus amarus, P. fraternus, P. debilis and P. urinaria used in scientific investigations and dry leaf bulk herb trade. Planta Med. 2008 Feb;74(3):296-301. | Read abstract |

[2006] Kumaran A, Karunakaran RJ. Anti-oxidant activity of polyphenols from Phyllanthus debilis Klein ex Willd. J Natural Remedies 2006;6(2);141-146. | Read article |

[2005] Chandrashekar KS, Joshi AB, Satyanarayana D, Pai P. Phytochemical observation of whole plant of Phyllanthus debilis klein .ex.willd. Anc Sci Life 2005;25(1):39-41. | Read article |

[2005] Chandrashekar KS, Joshi AB, Satyanarayana D, Pai P. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Phyllanthus debilis. Whole plant. Pharma Biol 2005;43(7):586-588. | Read article |

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