of the world

Photos and illustrations of selected species
Delta description of the family
Our current understanding of relationships within the family
Current and ongoing research around the world
A comprehensive listing of publications on  the family
Melastomatologists around the world

Information on the largest tribe including a synonymy database
Various databases that include references to the Melastomataceae
"Weedy" under normal circumstances, some species are especially problematic when introduced
Notes on the cultivation of melastomes, plus suggestions of species that merit attention
Web sites worth exploring


Many members of the Melastomataceae have a propensity to become invasive, given the opportunity. This opportunity rarely arises in the native habitat of a species as there tends to be a higher rate of competition from other natives. Additionally, in a plants' home range, there are usually numerous pathogens from herbivores to fungi and viruses that have co-evolved with the plant keeping populations in check. These external ecological factors and organisms make it very unlikely that a species will develop 'invasive' behavior in its native range or create extensive monodominant stands.

The basic reason for the invasive behavior exhibited by some melastomes is that they are primary colonizers of secondary areas, disturbed habitats, pastures, roadsides, landslides, light gaps and rivers. As such, their life strategies include such adaptations as high germination rates, rapid growth, early maturity, ability of fragments to root, apomixis and efficient seed dispersal - frequently employing birds that are attracted by copious production of berries.

Most of these qualities are present in Miconia calvescens and Clidemia hirta; this had led to their incredible proliferation throughout Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, and beyond.

Miconia calvescens was introduced to Hawaii and Tahiti and is now considered to be one of the greatest threats to the fragile ecosystems of the islands. In Tahiti, M. calvescens was first planted as an ornamental at a private botanical garden in 1937; it can now be found on approximately 70% of the island. The species is fast growing, shade tolerant, devoid of natural pests, and sets an abundance of seed with a high rate of germination leading to monospecific stands - M. calvescens easily out-competes and has put the native flora at great risk.

The spread of Clidemia hirta throughout the Pacific islands has followed a similar pattern. Like Miconia calvescens, when growing outside of its native habitats of the Caribbean, Central and South America, C. hirta often forms nearly impenetrable thickets. It has had a devastating effect upon the native flora of Hawaii and many Pacific islands where it is free to grow and spread in a variety of habitats without impediments. Biological control of this invasive species has met with limited success.

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Page last updated: 21 December, 2004