The Melastomataceae Family *Any family member with a high-risk designation*
Impact: Many family members are weedy and extremely invasive in Hawai’i. The seeds are dispersed by birds, water & and unintentionally as a result of human activity (i.e. muddy boots). Worse yet, humans are a major disperser of this family; seeds, propagules, and clippings are shared and sold due to their beautiful flowers and attractive foliage. They often produce more than 1000 seeds per square meter per year which can persist in the seed bank for more than a year. Most species grow fast to reproductive age and can resprout after mutilation. Furthermore, they thrive a wide range of elevations demonstrating their environmental versatility. This family is disturbance-adapted and can effectively colonize a disturbed area. Destructive to native habitats, these plants are very aggressive and shade out, crowd out, and smother surrounding vegetation, forming dense stands. These plants are horrible pests and very hard to control.
Pono Alternatives: Pipturus albidus (mamaki), Codiaeum variegatum (croton), Hibiscus schizopetalus (coral Hibiscus, aloalo ko`ako`a, Chinese lantern, Japanese lantern), Acalypha godseffiana (copperleaf), Acmella grandiflora (toothache plant), Aechmea fasciata (silver vase), Agapanthus africanus (lily of the Nile), Bixa orellana (lipstick plant), Brachychiton acerifolius (flame tree), Dichorisandra thyrsiflora (blue ginger), Handroanthus impetiginosus (pau d’arco)
Description: Life forms can be herbs, shrubs or small trees. Family members can be identified by longitudinal veins that arise from the leaf base to tip, in other words, the leaf vein runs just on the inside of the leaf edge. The leaves are simple with no serration on the margins. The flowers are perfect, meaning both male and female reproductive structures are present. They often have twisted buds that are pointed. The flower’s anthers are noticeably sickle-shaped. The fruits are berries containing many viable seeds.
Comments from green industry professionals: “High beauty value but very invasive”, “very aggressive, shading out, crowding out, smothering surrounding vegetation, forming dense stands, tiny seeds”, “Horrible pests and very hard to control. These are number 2 in my book, ( gorse is number one)”, “the worst”, “troublesome”, “my arch-nemesis Koster’s curse! highly invasive and destructive to native habitats”, “awful stuff”, “weedy”, “The worst in my native forest. Have been hand weeding it for 12 years.”