Melastoma malabathricum

Name and classification

Melastoma malabathricum L.
Family Melastomataceae

Common names

Malabar melastome, melastoma, Indian-rhododendron

Disseminule

seed

Description

Fruit a berry-like capsule with numerous seeds coated with red, sweet astringent pulp. Seeds dimorphic—with and without embryo. Fertile seeds folded or spiral, triangular to D-shaped in outline, 0.45–0.8 mm long, 0.35–0.5(0.6) mm wide, 0.17–0.3 mm thick, with sides sloping to central depression created by curve of seed and one face more or less truncate and round to elliptic. Testa light yellow or pale to dark cream-colored, with truncate face black or same color as testa. Surface glistening, dense with minute papillae. Hilar area on truncate face. Embryo linear-curved. Seeds without embryo similar to fertile seeds but smaller, 0.3–0.5 mm long, 0.2–0.3 mm wide, 0.2 mm thick, appearing collapsed, dented, or wrinkled, testa completely black or reddish-black.

Identification considerations

Similar species

Melastoma sanguineum Sims (non-FNW)

Distribution

India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Taiwan, to Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the Pacific Islands; also Mauritius, Jamaica, and United States

native to tropical Asia, Australia, and Polynesia

Habitat

Moist tropics; a weed in abandoned clearings, waste ground, disturbed sites associated with plantation crops.

General information

Melastoma malabathricum is an evergreen shrub, up to 2 m tall. In Southeast Asia and elsewhere it is a widespread weed of industrial forest plantation crops (such as rubber and mahogany), orchards, and rice fields. In Hawaii it forms dense thickets in pastures and rangelands. Its minute seeds are dispersed by birds and water.

seeds

seeds

seeds

seeds

truncate hilar area of seeds

truncate hilar area of seeds

truncate hilar area of seeds

truncate hilar area of seeds

infertile seeds

infertile seeds

infertile seeds

infertile seeds

opened fruit showing numerous seeds

opened fruit showing numerous seeds

A, seed; B, longitudinal section of seed showing embryo; C, transection of seed drawing by Lynda E. Chandler

A, seed; B, longitudinal section of seed showing embryo; C, transection of seed drawing by Lynda E. Chandler

fruit

fruit