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ShrubbySpecies Plant

Melastoma malabathricum

Melastoma malabathricum

The Malabar melastome or Indian rhododendron, Singapore rhododendron, planter’s rhododendron, senduduk (Melastoma malabathricum L. 1753) is a shrub species belonging to the Melastomataceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta Superdivision,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Rosidae,
Order Myrtales,
Family Melastomataceae,
Genus Melastoma,
Species M. malabathricum.
The terms are synonymous:
– Melastoma baumianum Naudin;
– Melastoma malabathricum var. javanum Bakh.f.;
– Melastoma normale var. divergens Craib;
– Melastoma osbeckioides Guill.;
– Melastoma polyanthum var. linearifolium Bakh.f.;
– Melastoma polyanthum var. mollissimum Bakh.f.;
– Melastoma polyanthum var. pulleana Mansf.;
– Melastoma sylvaticum var. permultiflorum Bakh.f.;
– Melastoma trachyphyllum var. ochraceum Bakh.f.;
– Melastoma triflorum Naudin.
Within this species the following subspecies and varieties are recognised:
– Melastoma malabathricum subsp. malabathricum;
– Melastoma malabathricum subsp. normale (D.Don) K.Mey.;
– Melastoma malabathricum var. malabathricum;
– Melastoma malabathricum var. mariannum (Naudin) Fosberg & Sachet.

Etymology –
The term Melastoma comes from the Greek “μέλας” (melas), i.e. black and “στόμα” (stoma), i.e. mouth, in reference to the fruits of some species which, when eaten, color the mouth and lips black.
The specific epithet malabathricum comes from the Latin “malabathricus, a, um”, that is, from Malabar, a region on the southwestern coast of India, in reference to one of the places of origin.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Melastoma malabathricum is a plant native to Indomalaya, Japan and Australia.
In detail, its natural range of origin is in Australia (Western Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory), Bhutan, Cambodia, China (Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hunan, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan and Zhejiang) , Philippines, Japan, India, Indonesia, Laos, Peninsular Malaysia, Mauritius, Nepal, New Guinea, Seychelles, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Its habitat is that of sparse forests, prairies, uncultivated lands and the edges of roads and paths, and is usually found at altitudes between 100 and 2,800 meters above sea level.

Description –
Melastoma malabathricum is a shrubby, perennial, erect, evergreen, branched, very variable plant which usually grows up to 0.5-2 m in height, but which in some specimens in nature can reach 5 m.
The young branches are almost quadrangular, the older ones are cylindrical, reddish in color and rough due to the presence of tiny scales.
The leaves are located on a 0.5-2 cm long petiole; these are simple, opposite, ovate to elliptical-lanceolate in shape with a pointed apex and entire margin, 4-14 cm long and 1.5-5 cm wide, rigid, thickly covered with short bristly hair (strigose), with ( 1-)2(-3) longitudinal ribs prominent on the sides of the central one; the crumpled leaves emit an unpleasant odor.
The inflorescences are terminal, cymose, carrying 3-11 flowers, on a 2-10 mm long pedicel, 5-7 cm in diameter, bisexual, with urceolate hypanthium, 5-10 mm long, green to reddish in color, densely covered with 0.5-2 mm long scales, 5 triangular to lanceolate sepals with pointed apex, 4-6 mm long, pubescent, deciduous, interspersed with small teeth, 5 obovate petals, 1.5-3.5 cm long and 1-2 cm wide, white, to violet, to reddish purple in color, 10 stamens, of which 5 are long, 2.2-3 cm, curved, with violet anthers, 5 shorter, 1.8-2.2 cm, with yellow anthers.
The fruits are globose-urceolate fleshy capsules, 0.7-1.3 cm in length and 0.6-1 cm in diameter, strigose, green in color with shades from pink to light brown, irregularly dehiscent.
Inside there are a multitude of tiny orange seeds, about 0.6 mm long, immersed in a blackish purple pulp, edible but rather tasteless.

Cultivation –
Melastoma malabathricum is a plant that is often collected in the wild for local use as food and medicine.
It is grown locally as an ornamental plant and is grown in Malaysia on rubber plantations as a cover plant.
It is a typical plant of hot, humid, tropical lowlands with a more northern distribution and confined to higher altitudes in tropical areas.
It prefers open, well-drained, fertile and humus-rich soil.
This plant, in certain areas, can become invasive in pastures, pineapple crops and other crops on peaty soils. It can also create particular problems in oil palm, rubber and coconut crops. Locally it can create problems, although minor, in cassava, sugarcane, tea and mountain rice cultivations and in grasslands and sparse forest habitats.
However, outside these contexts, it is a plant of undoubted ornamental characteristics due to its flowers produced almost continuously, undemanding and fast growing, cultivable in tropical and subtropical climate regions in parks and gardens in groups or for hedges and borders, in full sun or slightly shaded. On the other hand, due to the speed with which it reproduces and disperses (the seeds pass through the digestive system of birds unscathed) and the adaptability to different types of soil, even poor and poorly draining ones, if not kept under control, as mentioned, it can escape cultivation.
In many regions where it was introduced for ornamental purposes it has become a weed, competing with both wild and cultivated species, in this case causing considerable economic damage.
Where the climate does not allow continuous permanence outdoors, it can be grown in pots, in fertile and draining soil, to be able to be sheltered in a particularly bright place with minimum winter temperatures preferably not lower than +16 °C. It should be watered regularly during growth, more rarely in winter, but without allowing the substrate to dry completely, and fertilized in spring-summer using a balanced water-soluble product with microelements.
Reproduction occurs easily by seed in a sandy substrate kept humid at a temperature of 24-28 °C, with germination times of 2 to 4 weeks, and by apical cutting.

Customs and Traditions –
Melastoma malabathricum is a plant known by various common names, among which are: banks melastoma, Indian rhododendron, Malabar melastome, Singapore rhododendron (English); ye mu dan (Chinese); malatungai (Philippines); mélastome du Malabar (French); karali, nekkarike, palore, rongmei, shapti, yachubi (India); Harendong, Kemanden (Indonesia); kenduduk, senduduk (Malaysia); bre, chuk naaree, mang kre (Thailand); mua da hung, mua se (Vietnam).
The taxonomy of the genus Melastoma needs a complete revision. The first genetic studies were published from 2001 to 2013, but a review based on them has not yet occurred. In 2001, Karsten Meyer proposed a revision in which the related Melastoma species and other species were included in the species M. malabathricum.
The plant is used for both food and medicinal purposes.
In the food sector, young shoots are used and consumed as fresh or cooked vegetables.
The fleshy pulp of the fully ripe fruit is eaten fresh.
This plant has been used as a medicinal plant in some parts of the world, but has been declared invasive and harmful in some countries such as the United States. M. malabathricum is a well-known aluminum hyperaccumulator plant and as such can be used for phytoremediation.
In some places of origin, parts of the plant are used in folk medicine, in particular leaves and roots are used as a remedy for diarrhea and dysentery; laboratory studies have highlighted the presence of bioactive compounds with antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrheal properties in various parts of the plant, of possible interest for the official pharmacopoeia.
Other uses include agroforestry uses.
This species is a pioneer plant with a high dispersal capacity. Using this species as a pioneer, however, requires careful thought due to its ability to escape cultivation and invade non-native areas.
Other uses are those related to dyeing ability. The fruit produces a black or purple dye while the leaves and roots produce a pink dye.
The ashes of the plant can be used as a mordant.
A tar made from wood is used to blacken teeth.

Preparation Method –
Melastoma malabathricum is a plant that is used as an edible, medicinal or other use.
The young shoots are eaten as fresh or cooked vegetables and the fleshy pulp of the fully ripe fruit is eaten fresh; It has a sweet but slightly astringent flavour.
In the medicinal field, the plant is often used medicinally in Asia, where it is particularly appreciated for its astringent properties.
A decoction of the leaves, alone or in combination with other plants, is used in the treatment of stomach pain, indigestion, diarrhea, dysentery and leukorrhea.
The crushed leaves are applied externally as a compress on cuts, wounds and swellings. A strong decoction of the leaves is applied to painful arthritic joints and also to weeping sores caused by the hairs of stinging insects to facilitate extraction of the hairs.
It is also applied to other types of exuding wounds to disinfect them.
A decoction of roots and leaves is given to women after giving birth.
The powdered leaves and roots can be sprinkled on wounds. They are also used in applications against hemorrhoids, apparently due to their astringent properties.
The roots are simply sucked or can be used to gargle for toothache.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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