Authors: Itua Mercy Tope

Leaf epidermal studies were carried out on three species of Phyllanthus L., Family Euphorbiaceae that are found in Zaria, Nigeria. The species investigated include P. mullerianus (O. Ktze) Excel, P. discoideus (Baill) Mull-Arg and P. amarus Schum and Thonn. The study was carried out to investigate and identify their epidermal features that can be recognized and employed as useful taxonomic characters. The organoleptic/macroscopic characters of the leaves of the two Phyllanthus species were evaluated by using the sense organs of seeing, touch, smell and taste, to determine their taste, texture, colour and odour. The specimens were then studied under light microscope to determine their microscopic features such as stomatal size, stomatal density, stomatal index, stomatal frequency, stomatal complex types, epidermal cell shapes, epidermal size, epidermal cell number, vein islet number and palisade cells. Phyllanthus muellarianus was observed to have petiolated simple leaf that is alternately arranged and pale green in colour, Phyllanthus discoideus also has petiolated simple leaves that are oppositely arranged and green in colour and Phyllanthus amarus was found to have petiolated bipinnate compound leaf, with opposite arrangement and light green in colour. P.muellarianus and P.amarus both have elliptical shape,while P. discoideus have oblong shape. They all have entire margin, characteristic odour and taste, fine texture, retuse apex and cuneate base. P.muellarianus and P. discoideus leaves were hypostomatic with the stomatal frequency of 17 and 63 respectively, while P. amarus leaf was amphistomatic with the stomatal frequency of 102 on the adaxial surface and118 on the abaxial surface. They all have curved anticlinal walls. The stomatal complex type for P. muellarianus and P.discoideus was paracytic and has the stomatal index of 22.69% and 23.01% respectively, while the stomatal complex type for P. amarus was anisocytic and it has stomatal index of 19.86%. The vein islet number, vein termination number and palisade ratio were determined for the three species. Leaf epidermal features plays an important role in taxonomy and determining the number of plant genera and species (Scatena et al., 2005). The differences noticed in the epidermal features of the leaves of the three Phyllanthus species are of taxonomic importance and can be used to identify and delimit each species by supporting other systematic lines of evidence. The results of the study could be useful in setting some diagnostic indices for the identification and preparation of a monograph of the plant.

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