Phyllanthus urinaria (leafflower)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Phyllanthus urinaria L.
Preferred Common Name
Other Scientific Names
- Phyllanthus cantoniensis Hornem.
- Phyllanthus cantoniensis Schweigg.
- Phyllanthus urinaria Wall. non L.
International Common Names
- English: chamber bitter; common leafflower
- Spanish: flor escondida
- French: petit Tamarin rouge; Phyllanthe diuretique
Local Common Names
- Brazil: erva-pombinha
- China: ye xia zhu
- Indonesia: memeniran; meniran
- Indonesia/Java: memeniran; meniran
- Indonesia/Nusa Tenggara: memeniran; meniran
- Japan: ko-makansou; komikanso
- Malaysia: amin buah; dukong anak; keman jolok
- Philippines: apoy-apoyan; ibaiba-an; laiolaioan; lurulaioan; minuhminuh; payog; surusampalok; tabi; takum-takum; talindanon; turutalikod
- USA: creole senna; gale of wind
- PYLUR (Phyllanthus urinaria)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page It is an invasive species in the southern USA and on the noxious weed list in some states. Like any other weed species, P. urinaria is a plant with opportunistic traits, adaptable to a range of ecological habitats. The weed is generally non-invasive in its native range, despite its recorded presence in a number of countries and affecting a range of economic crops. It is, however, a declared noxious weed in Alabama, USA, and is known to be invasive elsewhere where it has been introduced.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Euphorbiales
- Family: Euphorbiaceae
- Genus: Phyllanthus
- Species: Phyllanthus urinaria
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page Phyllanthus urinaria L. does not have confusing synonyms common with other species in the genus. Two subspecies have been put forward, subsp. nudicarpus Rossignol & R. Haicour and subsp. urinaria; however, it appears that these are not widely accepted.
DescriptionTop of page P. urinaria is an erect, slender, branched, glabrous herb, 10-35 cm high, obtuse or apiculate, the base slightly oblique; stipules lanceolate. Stem more or less crimson red. Leaves with wide asymmetric base, purplish rimmed, 5-20 mm long and 1-7 mm wide with mucronulate apices. Higher leaf axils bear solitary or paired male flowers, with female flowers in the lower axils. Flowers, very small, 5-merous, axillary, ca. 1 mm in diameter. Male flowers with ovate or ovate-oblong greenish sepals, yellowish-white with a green middle strip, erect anther cells, the slits vertical. Female flowers with sessile or very short pedicels 0.15-0.30 mm long, ultimately 0.55-0.68 mm, thickened all over with reddish sepals in the middle, ovary warty. Fruit green, red or greenish-red, densely verrucous, ca. 3 mm in diameter, muricate or smooth, of 3 dehiscent cocci. Seeds are transversely ribbed on the back, and sides.
Plant TypeTop of page Annual
DistributionTop of page P. urinaria is thought to be naturalized everywhere where introduced (USDA-ARS, 2003), and is probably more widespread in tropical Africa than present records indicate.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page P. urinaria is native to tropical Asia but has spread and naturalized in the warm tropics and subtropics and is now prevalent worldwide (Pancho and Obien, 1995). No further information is available on the history of introduction and spread of P. urinaria from its native Asian tropics to other parts of the world.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page The relatively free or unrestricted movement of plants or plant parts within countries makes it possible that both seeds and vegetative parts of P. urinaria have been intentionally introduced to various parts of those countries where the weed is prevalent, unhindered, principally through its use as a medicinal plant. Sharing of agricultural implements, especially tillage and harvesting implements, among farmers either through the hire-for-service by private individuals or cooperatives may also help to disperse the propagules from one locality to another.
HabitatTop of page It is found in a wide range of ecological habitats up to 1500 m in Java, Indonesia (Soerjani et al., 1987), or upland fields and roadsides in China (Anon, 2000). In Malaysia and the Philippines it is also noted in open or somewhat shaded areas, preferably on moist, fertile soils, on cultivated fields, arable peat, grasslands and also on roadsides and waste ground (Ridley, 1924; Burkill, 1935; Masayu, 1995; Pancho and Obien, 1995).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Wetlands||Present, no further details|
|Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page It is a weed of minor importance in both arable and non-arable lands, infesting irrigated lowland and upland rice, potato, groundnuts, vegetable crops, and fruit orchards in South and South-east Asia (Ridley, 1924; Burkill, 1935; Soerjani et al., 1987; Moody, 1989; Pancho and Obien, 1995; Galinato et al., 1999). It is also a weed of tobacco, young cocoa, coconut, and upland rice in Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand (Waterhouse, 1993). Baki et al. (1997) reported a high prevalence of the weed in arable peat in Peninsular Malaysia. Jeanplong (1973) reported high incidences of the weed in maize, French bean, sweet potato and radish in North Vietnam. Similarly in China, the weed is prevalent in cotton crops subjected to zero-tillage regimes (Li et al., 1989) and in potato and groundnut (Anon, 2000).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Abelmoschus esculentus (okra)||Malvaceae||Other|
|Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Camellia sinensis (tea)||Theaceae||Main|
|Cinchona officinalis (Cinchona tree)||Rubiaceae||Main|
|Cocos nucifera (coconut)||Arecaceae||Other|
|Cucumis (melons, cucuimbers, gerkins)||Cucurbitaceae||Other|
|Ipomoea aquatica (swamp morning-glory)||Convolvulaceae||Other|
|Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato)||Convolvulaceae||Other|
|Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)||Solanaceae||Other|
|Oryza sativa (rice)||Poaceae||Other|
|Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean)||Fabaceae||Other|
|Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)||Solanaceae||Main|
|Solanum melongena (aubergine)||Solanaceae||Main|
|Solanum tuberosum (potato)||Solanaceae||Other|
|Tectona grandis (teak)||Lamiaceae||Main|
|Theobroma cacao (cocoa)||Malvaceae||Main|
|Vochysia ferruginea (red yemeri)||Vochysiaceae||Other|
|Zea mays (maize)||Poaceae||Other|
Growth StagesTop of page Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage
Biology and EcologyTop of page Physiology and Phenology
Heteromorphy is prevalent in seed of Phyllanthus spp. including P. urinaria, with both brown and yellow seeds with the yellow seeds generally not viable. Seeds of P. urinaria are photoblastic, requiring light for germination (Wehtje et al., 1992). Maximum seed germination of 79% occurred within the temperature range of 25-35°C and temperature regimes outside this range were inhibitory to seed germination. Osmotic potentials of 0, 304, and 507 kPA resulted in 85, 24, and 14% germination, respectively. Seedling growth was optimized with full exposure to sunlight. Shading or sunlight reduced by >26% was inhibitory to seedling growth of P. urinaria. Burnt natural forest registered increased density and frequency of herbs and shrubs, including P. urinaria, as compared to unburned areas in Uttar Pradesh, India, probably due to stimulated seed germination following forest fires (Maithani et al., 1986). Dogra et al. (1978) recorded higher nitrogen content among P. urinaria plants subjected to shady conditions, and a positive correlation with soils containing a high nitrogen content. The shoots contain more nitrogen than fruits. Mori et al. (1997) successfully synthesized phyllanthurinolactone and its diastereoisomer, the bioactive leaf-closing factor of the nyctinastic P. urinaria.
Phyllanthus urinaria propagates principally through seeds. Wehtje et al. (1992) reported that seeds of P. urinaria require light for germination, and as such, seeds buried deeper than 5 cm failed to germinate. Further, the right osmotic potential (kPA=0) and temperature regimes (25-35°C) ensure high occurrence of seed germination. Optimum seedling and subsequent plant growth prevailed under full sunlight.
P. urinaria is a tropical and subtropical species, tolerant of high temperatures and not present anywhere where frosts occur. It is found in locations with mean annual rainfall from 275 mm to 2500 mm, it is generally a sub-humid to humid species. It is tolerant of saline and infertile soils and of a range of pH from acid peat to alkaline calcareous soils. A range of altitudes can be tolerated from 0 to 1800 m.
P. urinaria is often found growing in sympatry with P. debilis in Malaysia (Ridley, 1924; Burkill, 1935). P. urinaria is a symptomless carrier and potential host of Rastonia solanacearum in Taiwan. High occurrence of P. urinaria prevailed in heartrot-affected coconut fields in Surinam. The weed is an alternative host of two root-knot nematodes, Meloidogyne incognita (Valdez, 1968) and Meloidogyne graminicola (Rao et al., 1970).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||5|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||33||38|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||8||12|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||275||2500||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page Bimodal
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- very acid
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page No species-specific natural enemies are known. P. urinaria is an alternative host of the root knot nematodes Meloidogyne incognita (Valdez, 1968), and Meloidogyne graminicola (Rao et al., 1970). Segeren et al. (1984) recorded high incidences of P. urinaria in plantations of coconut affected by heartrot (associated with Phytomonas spp.) in Surinam. The weed was most resistant to Ralstonia solanacearum, showing no symptoms after being artificially inoculated by stem-prick and soil-drenching methods (Lin et al., 1999). P. urinaria is a symptomless carrier and potential host of R. solanacearum in Taiwan.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
Seeds of P. urinaria can be dispersed by water as they are hydrochorous (Soerjani et al., 1987). Wind dispersal of seeds is also possible.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Since P. urinaria is eaten by animals, seed dispersal through herbivory or zoochory prevails (Soerjani et al., 1987).
Tillage and harvesting implements, and tillage and other agronomic practices of land preparation help to move and disperse seeds, fruits and other propagules of P. urinaria from one farm to the next, or from one locality to another.
Popular usage of the herb as a medicinal plant and folk medicines in many countries will help to introduce P. urinaria from one locality to another or from one country to another, despite quarantine regulatory protocols in place. This is particularly true in China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and other Asian countries.
Pathway VectorsTop of page
|Soil, sand and gravel||Soil and water.||Yes|
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Growing medium accompanying plants|
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page P. urinaria is a weed in several countries affecting many crops, such as rice, potato, groundnut, tobacco, young cocoa, coconut, cotton, maize, various vegetables and fruit orchards. Some form of economic loss in yield and quality is inflicted on crops where the weed is prevalent. To arrest those losses, weeding operations need to be carried out, and these will incur extra costs to farmers. In countries where credit and cash flow are a problem, weeding operations will have a negative economic impact on farmers. However, it may appear that the economic uses of and benefits from P. urinaria as a popular medicinal plant in many countries outweigh its adverse effects as a weed in agricultural and non-agricultural areas. The pharmacological and medicinal properties of the plant as an analgesic, a relaxant, retroviral, and retrobacterial agent have been exploited to cure hepatitis, kidney, urinary, bladder and other ailments. P. urinaria is an alternative host of pests and diseases that could have economic impacts.
Environmental ImpactTop of page There is no published information available on the environmental impact due to the presence of P. urinaria either in agricultural or non-agricultural lands.
Social ImpactTop of page P. urinaria is prevalent as a weed in rice, maize and many other economic crops, reducing crop growth and yields; weeding is therefore an important and necessary post-planting activity among farmers. Weeding of course reduces the time farmers would otherwise have available for other social or economic activities.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
UsesTop of page As in many species of Phyllanthus, P. urinaria is said to possess medicinal properties (Ridley, 1897, 1906; Burkill and Haniff, 1930). For example, Burkill (1935) claimed that a little juice of P. urinaria on a bit of cloth may be used to clean a child's tongue, or the juice of a few leaves in coconut milk may be given to stimulate a child's appetite. Further, extracts taken internally are good at stimulating the kidneys. Ridley (1897) reported that the Malays used P. urinaria and P. niruri vicariously, internally for diarrhoea, kidney ailments, gonorrhoea, and syphilis; as an emmenagogue, and after miscarriage and childbirth, or young leaves for coughs, especially in children. Recent studies by Nor Azizah (2002) demonstrated an inhibitory effect of extracts of Phyllanthus spp., including P. urinaria, on the formation and subsequent aggregation of oxalate crystals in kidneys, perhaps supporting the earlier belief among Malays that P. urinaria and P. niruri can be used against kidney ailments. Pounded leaves and stems of P. urinaria and P. niruri were applied to the head for vertigo after a child's birth in British Malaya (Burkill and Haniff, 1930). Chinese herbalists stock Phyllanthus plants in the Malay Peninsula.
In the Philippines, Pancho and Obien (1995) noted that 50-100 g of fresh plants of P. urinaria or P. debilis prepared in aqueous solution is said to cure hepatitis and kidney infection. The leaf concoction is considered to be a panacea, containing a bitter phyllanthin, although it can be poisonous when consumed in large quantities. Burkill (1935) claimed that P. urinaria, like P. debilis, contained phyllanthin and saponin; both chemicals are also used as a fish poison. P. urinaria is also rich in flavonoids, namely astragalin, isoquercitrin, quercetin, and rutin (Tea et al., 1977). Intriguingly, P. urinaria like P. debilis, is a plant of magic in the Malay Peninsula, chewed by tricksters before chewing glass (Ridley, 1897). The plant contains much potassium, producing diuretic effects. In Indonesia, the plant is used against fever, dysentery, gonorrhoea, and syphilis, and is an abortifacient (Soerjani et al., 1987). Bagchi et al. (1992) and Ahmed (1998) among others, reported the pharmacological properties of P. urinaria in India with plants used extensively as a diuretic and to treat dysentery.
Perhaps the most promising use of P. urinaria is its medicinal values, as shown by several detailed studies focusing primarily on biochemical extracts and their pharmacological properties. P. urinaria was found to have anti-viral qualities (Yang et al., 1987; Unander and Blumberg, 1991; Bagchi et al., 1992; Cruz et al., 1994; Mi et al., 1995; Prakash et al., 1995; Suthienkul et al., 1995; Liu et al., 1999; Kim et al., 1999; Jikai et al., 2000) and to be effective against bacteria and other pathogens (Cruz et al., 1994; Direkbusarakom et al., 1997; Lin et al., 1999). Extracts were found that could be used to treat liver and kidney ailments (Prakash et al., 1995; Satyan et al., 1995; Hartini, 2002; Lo, 2002; Zuraihan, 2002) while antinociceptive or analgesic chemicals were also isolated (Dias et al., 1995; Santos et al., 1995; Satyan et al., 1995).
Dias et al. (1995) reported that hydroalcoholic extracts caused graded contractions of guinea pig urinary bladders, while Santos et al. (1995) found them to have analgesic effects. Lo (2002) carried out detailed studies showing the effectiveness of extracts of P. urinaria and P. niruri to arrest liver damage in mice. Extracts of Phyllanthus spp., including P. urinaria and P. niruri, were also shown to have significant anti-cancer activity (Zuraihan, 2002). Hartini (2002) demonstrated the dose-dependent activities of extracts of P. urinaria on the fertility of mice, with 0.1 g/kg of body weight, the orally administered extracts of P. urinaria promote embryo production, whereas at 5 g/kg of body weight the extracts function as an anti-fertility agent.
Anti-bacterial activity of P. urinaria against pathogenic bacteria, such as Aeromonas hydrophila, Streptococcus sp. and strains of Vibrio spp. in fish and shrimp, were reported by Direkbusarakom et al. (1997). In Brazil, Cruz et al. (1994) demonstrated similar activity against a range of common human dietary diseases. The results of this study support the traditional use of this medicinal plant in the treatment of urinary infections.
Uses ListTop of page
- Poisonous to fish
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page P. urinaria is quite similar to other Phyllanthus species, notably P. debilis, P. amarus and P. niruri. P. urinaria is noted for its dark crimson-coloured stem. In contrast, P. debilis is green in colour, also glabrous, angular and with patent branches resembling a pinnate leaf. Despite distinct differences in the pollen structures of P. urinaria as compared to P. debilis and P. niruri, similarities prevail in the anatomical structures of leaves, stem, and roots of P. niruri, P. debilis and P. urinaria (Aniadila, 2002). However, Soerjani et al. (1987) distinguish P. urinaria from P. debilis Klein ex. Willd. (the correct name for the widespread Asian weed usually known as 'P. niruri') on the basis that P. debilis has perianth pale (v. yellowish-white), anthers horizontally dehiscent (v. vertically), fruit smooth (not warty), on a pedicel 1.5-2.0 mm long, thickended at the apex (v. 0.5-1.0 mm long, thickened throughout) and seeds longitudinally ribbed. P. urinaria can be distinguished from P. amarus and P. fraternus by its verrucose capsules and the absence of fibre cells in branchlets (Bagchi et al., 1992). P. virginatus is distinguished from other species by its prostrate habit and the presence of starch grains in the parenchymatous cells. P. amarus has bisexual cymules with 5 calyx lobes and druse lobes, though druse crystals are absent.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Mechanical Control
Tillage and land preparation techniques can be used to control P. urinaria in rice (Soerjani et al., 1987) and cotton (Li et al., 1989). Manual weeding eliminates P. urinaria effectively in rice (Soerjani et al., 1987).
Soerjani et al. (1987) advocated the use of MSMA + 2,4-D + sodium chlorate at 4-week intervals to effectively control P. urinaria in rice in Indonesia. Further post-emergence control with propanil was also suggested. Sequential applications of paraquat or paraquat with monuron or diuron, or amitrole-paraquat during land preparation, and non-crop situations, were equally effective against the weed. Two sequential applications of prodamine provided the longest and most consistent pre-emergent control based on percentage cover (reduced to 10%) and dry weight of the weed (reduced by 30%) at two sites in Florida, USA (Norcini et al., 1995). Other herbicides providing excellent control of P. urinaria were dithiopyr and the pre-formulated combination of isoxaben and oryzalin. Wehtje et al. (1992) reported that pre-emergence applications of either granular oxadiazon or pre-mixed granular oxyfluorfen + oryzalin provided ca. 85% control of the weed. Post-emergence treatments with paraquat, glyphosate, oxyfluorfen, and acifluorfen provided at least 90% control of the weed.
Li et al. (1989) undertook integrated control of P. urinaria along with other annual and perennial weeds in cotton. The control measures include the integration of zero tillage, late sowing, close planting and herbicide applications. Herbicides include glyphosate, fluometuron, and butachlor, applied in the first 3 years of cotton crops. No herbicide was applied in the last 4 years out of the 7-year crop cycle. Very few plants of P. urinaria emerged in the first 3 years under zero tillage + late sowing regimes, or zero tillage + close planting + chemical weeding, or tillage + sparse planting + weeding between tillage. However, high incidences of the weed were recorded in plots subjected to the zero tillage + close planting + chemical weeding regime, arguably due to its tolerance to shading by the cotton plants.
ReferencesTop of page
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