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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Phyllanthaceae

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Order: Malpighiales

Fifty-nine genera and 1745 species (pantropical, especially Malesia), with 11 genera and 68 species native to southern Africa, one naturalised species and an additional two genera and three species that are cultivated in the region. Members of this family were previously placed in the Euphorbiaceae.

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).


 The 15 species are native mainly to warmer regions of the northern hemisphere but Andrachne ovalis is native to southern Africa.


About 200 species, native mainly to warmer parts of the Old World, with four species in southern Africa.


About 60 species, native to Africa, Asia and Australia, with five species native to southern Africa.


About 140 species, native to Africa and India through to Australia. Cleistanthus polystachus and Cleistanthus schlechteri (see Flora of Zimbabwe) found in subtropical forests of northern KwaZulu-Natal.


About 14 species, native to the tropics and east Asia, with two species in southern Africa.


One species, Heywoodia lucens (Black ebony), native to tropical East Africa, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. 


About 7-8 species, native mainly to tropical Africa, with two species in southern Africa - Hymenocardia acida (recorded from Zimbabwe and Mozambique, see Flora of Zimbabwe)and Hymenocardia ulmoides (see Flora of Zimbabwe), found in Limpopo Province and KwaZulu-Natal.


The two species are endemic to the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.



A total of 13 species, native to the tropics, with one species, Margaritaria discoidea, native to southern Africa. See Flora of Zimbabwe.


About 750-800 species, found in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, with about 47 species native to southern Africa, one species naturalised and one species cultivated in the region.


One species, Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia, native to Africa, including southern Africa. See Flora of Zimbabwe.

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002), where they are placed in the Euphorbiaceae. Each genus has only a single species that is cultivated in the region.

Bischofia javanica (Gintoeng)

Native from India to Samoa.


Breynia disticha

Native to Polynesia.



  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated plants of southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.