Durban Early Detection and Rapid Response

Melastoma Melastoma malabathricum (= M. candidum)

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Common Name

Large, erect multi-stemmed shrub generally up to 1.5 m tall but can reach 5 m. This perennial has leaves with ~5 deep parallel veins. Reddish hairy stems that are covered with small rough scales. Lilac flowers have 5 petals and are short-lived. The flowers are replaced by fig-shaped fruits which burst open when ripe, releasing numerous orange seeds.

Why is it a problem?
It is a pioneer plant that grows well on poor soil and dry, disturbed areas. Could become invasive due to its efficient seed dispersal, often aided by ants and birds. Can compete with indigenous vegetation.
Control method
Manual uprooting and chemical treatment of cut-stumps as they are effective in killing individual plants, but once populations become dense and established, these options are no longer feasible. In such cases, biocontrol needs to be explored.
Where is it a problem?
A weed in Mauritius, Malaysia and elsewhere in the tropics and subtropics: serious weed amongst crops and on abandoned farmlands. It is also declared a noxious weed in Hawai'i and it is a target species for eradication in Maui. In South Africa, two naturalised populations are known – one in Kloof and the other near Umzinto.

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