Sauropus albiflorus  (F.Muell. ex Mull.Arg.) Airy Shaw 1980

pronounced: saw-ROP-uss alb-ih-FLOR-uss

(Phyllanthaceae – the phyllanthus family)

synonym:  Phyllanthus albiflorus Mull.Arg. 1865

pronounced: fill-AN-thuss alb-ih-FLOR-uss

common name:  Showy Sauropus

Sauropus Phyllanthus amarusshowy Sauropus Phyllanthus amarusbranchletsis from the Greek σαυρος (sauros), a lizard, and πους (pous), a foot; albiflorus is Latin, white flower. In the synonym, Phyllanthus  is derived from the Greek φυλλον (phyllon), leaf, and ανθος (anthos), a flower. As with most of the Phyllanthaceae, the flowers and the fruits are carried as it were upside down, growing downwards underneath the plane of the leaves.

This plant grows in or near dry and subtropical rainforest. It occurs on Cape York Peninsula and in north-east Queensland, as far south as the border with NSW, at altitudes from near sea level to about 600 m.

Phyllanthus amarusin flower Phyllanthus amaruslateral branchletsIt is a small shrub growing from 50 to 100 cm in height. At first sight the leaves appear to be pinnate, but they are, in fact, separate, as shown by the stipules. They are simple, entire and alternate. The branchlets are rounded or slightly angular, rigid, and much-branched. There are brown stipules 0.5-1 mm long, triangular, sometimes recurved. The shape of the leaves is oblong-obovate to narrow-cuneate, 0.5 to 2 cm long, the apex obtuse, or sometimes mucronate, the base tapered; they are hairless, their lower surface more-or-less glaucous, the midrib prominent. The petioles are only about 1 mm long. The lower surface of the leaf blade is a much paler green than the upper surface.

Phyllanthus amarusbuds Phyllanthus amarusmale flowerThe plant is monoecious. The flowers are white or sometimes pinkish, with 6 petals, and appear in summer. The pedicels of the female flowers (15-22 mm) are much longer than those of the male flowers (10 mm). In the male flowers the stamens are surrounded by 6 glands that alternate with the tepals, which are about 1.5 mm long, and fused for a short distance. In the female flowers, the ovary is surrounded by a 6-lobed disk, the lobes alternating with the tepals, which are about 2 mm long. There are 3 stigmas, each 2-lobed or 3-armed.

The fruit is a glabrous capsule, 7 or 8 mm in diameter, with a persistent perianth at the base. The fruits are ripe in late summer to autumn.

Phyllanthus amarusin fruitPhyllanthus amarusfruit detail These are delicate little plants, and there is a small colony of them by the side of the road that leads from the end of Mandalay Avenue in Nelly Bay to the water treatment plant. I have watched this colony slowly spreading over the past few years. Another colony has also been reported on the saddle of the Horseshoe Bay to Nelly Bay walk.

 Photographs taken at Nelly Bay 2014, 2015

Page last updated 14th 2017









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