Characteristics of Otaheite Gooseberry Tree (Phyllanthus acidus) in the Wild

Phyllanthus acidus
Otaheite gooseberry or Malay gooseberry is a species of fruiting tree from the Phyllanthaceae family, which is found growing throughout Asia and the Caribbean. Although its exact origin is not known, some experts believe this species may have originated in Madagascar.

Otaheite gooseberry trees are found growing naturally in South Asia, then brought to the Philippines in prehistoric times. After that, it slowly spread to the Indian Ocean to Réunion and Mauritius, across the Pacific, and then to Hawaii.

It is thought that the Otaheite gooseberry tree began growing in the Caribbean in 1793 when William Bligh brought the plant to Jamaica.

Otaheite gooseberry is one of the fruit trees that can be eaten directly. It also has many names and varies from country to country, for example, Creme or Ceremai (Indonesia and Malaysia), Surette (Caribbean and France), Guinda (El Salvador), Groselha (Brazil), Nellikai (Canada), Tjerimée (Netherlands), Jimbilin (Jamaica), Rata Nelli or Nelli Bilin (Sri Lanka), Bangkiling (Philippines), Goanbili (Maldives), and Gooseberry or Otaheite Gooseberry (International).


Characteristics of Otaheite Gooseberry Leaf

Phyllanthus acidus Leaf
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The leaves are ovoid, thin, green, smooth, with short petioles and tapered tips. Each leaf is about 7-8 cm long and 2-3 cm wide.


Characteristics of Otaheite Gooseberry Flower

Phyllanthus acidus Flower
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The flowers are small, clusters, pink in color, and 5-12 cm long. The flowers grow on the main branch in the middle to the top of the tree.


Characteristics of Otaheite Gooseberry

Phyllanthus acidus Fruit
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The fruit is clustered, pale yellow or white, crunchy, juicy, and very sour. Each fruit contains 4-6 seeds.

The fruit appears all year round, harvested mostly in January except in South India, where it bears fruit in April-May and August-September.

Because the fruit does not soften when ripe, it is harvested when the fruit begins to fall.


Characteristics of Otaheite Gooseberry Tree

Phyllanthus acidus Tree
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Otaheite gooseberry trees can grow to form shrubs or small trees up to 2 to 9 meters tall.

This tree likes moist soil at an altitude of 1,000 m above sea level. Otaheite gooseberry tree is widely cultivated in various tropical countries for harvesting its edible fruit and as traditional medicine. Also, the tree is often planted in the yard or garden as an ornamental tree.

Otaheite gooseberry is still closely related to the Malacca (Phyllanthus emblica) and Ileng-Ileng (Phyllanthus reticulatus) trees.


  • In Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia, the leaves are cooked for food.
  • The sour fruit is often used as a fresh fruit dish or processed as sweets.
  • In the Philippines, the fruit is used to make vinegar, by soaking it in water mixed with salt and vinegar.
  • In Thailand, Otaheite gooseberry is used as an ingredient for making Som tam and Ma-Yom Chuam.
  • Otaheite gooseberry contains 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, caffeic acid, adenosine, kaempferol, and hypogallic acid. It is trusted and used as a traditional herbal medicine to treat sciatica, lumbago, and rheumatism.


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