I was quite pleased to find this non-native shrub growing in my front yard and in many of my neighbours yards when I moved in to my rented apartment in Cairns. While it appears to be treated with neglect in the neighbourhood, this plant is quite a well known vegetable in Southeast Asian countries. In Malaysia and Singapore it is called Cekur Manis (Malay) or Mani Cai (Chinese). At least a few people here in Far North Queensland are aware of the virtues of this plant and they refer to it as ‘Sweet leaf’. The leaves are eaten as a vegetable, either cooked or raw and I have personally sampled this vegetable quite a number of years back.
Gastronomy aside, this plant is quite ornamental. The leaves have a peculiar tendency, particularly when young, to exhibit a mild variegation – a lighter splotchy pattern in the middle of the lamina. The flowers are quite large (about 1cm wide) for a Phyllanthaceae and one would not easily have guessed that this plant was a relative of the common rainforest shrub, Sauropus albiflorus. The capsular fruits hang from the leaf axils and are produced abundantly. These wonderful fruits an uplifting combination of colors of light pink to white, subtended by rosy red sepals. When mature, the near globular capsules split open along suture lines to expose black seeds.