Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Melastoma malabathricum
(Banks melastoma)



Melastoma malabathricum (Banks melastoma)


  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Melastoma malabathricum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Banks melastoma
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae

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An evergreen, spreading shrub generally 1.8-2.0 m high, with a spread of ca 2 m.
TitleGrowth habit
CaptionAn evergreen, spreading shrub generally 1.8-2.0 m high, with a spread of ca 2 m.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
An evergreen, spreading shrub generally 1.8-2.0 m high, with a spread of ca 2 m.
Growth habitAn evergreen, spreading shrub generally 1.8-2.0 m high, with a spread of ca 2 m.©Colin Wilson


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Melastoma malabathricum L.

Preferred Common Name

  • Banks melastoma

Other Scientific Names

  • Melastoma candidum D. Don

International Common Names

  • English: pink lasiandra
  • French: Melastome du Malabar

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Malabar- Erdbeerstrauch

EPPO code

  • MESMA (Melastoma malabathricum)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Myrtales
  •                         Family: Melastomataceae
  •                             Genus: Melastoma
  •                                 Species: Melastoma malabathricum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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There are differences of opinion on the use of the names Melastoma malabathricum and M. affine. Kostermans et al. (1987) describe M. affine D. Don (= M. polyanthum Bl.) as the weed of rice in Indonesia, giving M. malabathricum as a synonym, but 'auct non L.', that is, it is not the same as M. malabathricum L., though the two are very similar, the Linnaean species differing (only?) in the way flower buds are enclosed by the bracts. In Waterhouse (1994), however, M. affine is given as a synonym for M. malabathricum L. and the illustration of M. affine from Kostermans et al. (1987) is used to illustrate 'M. malabathricum'. It is reported by Kon (1993) that the name for the weedy species should be changed from M. malabathricum to M. affine, but this has not been universally accepted.


Top of page M. malabathricum is an evergreen, spreading shrub that is generally 1.8-2.0 m high, with a spread of about 2 m. The stems are erect, branching, slender, 4-sided, scabrous, and densely covered with minute, rigid, appressed, ciliate scales. The leaves are 5-12 cm long, petiolate, blades narrowly elliptical or oblong-elliptical, acute at both ends, conspicuously 3-5 nerved, both surfaces covered with small, stiff, prostrate hairs, upper surface with rows of white cells at the base of the hairs. The flowers are pink, violet or mauve, 7.5 cm across, 3-6, in sessile terminal corymbs, 5-7 parted, subtended by large deciduous bracts; anthers dimorphic; appearing predominantly in summer. The fruit is a berry with red, sweet, astringent pulp, and is covered with the scaly, bristle-tipped calyx, and contains many minute seeds (Adams, 1972; Westbrooks, 1989; Bodkin, 1991).


Top of page M. malabathricum is native to tropical Asia and Polynesia, and Australia (Adams, 1972; Bodkin, 1991). It was introduced to Hawaii in 1916 as an ornamental (Haselwood and Motter, 1966).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


Brunei DarussalamPresentWaterhouse, 1993
CambodiaRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1979; Waterhouse, 1993; EPPO, 2014
IndiaRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
-AssamPresentKalita et al., 2002
-Tamil NaduPresentKrishnan, 2001
IndonesiaRestricted distributionPratiwi and Nazif, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993; EPPO, 2014
-KalimantanPresentHiratsuka et al., 2006
-SumatraPresentGryzenhout et al., 2006
JapanPresentYasunaga, 1993
LaosPresentWaterhouse, 1993
MalaysiaRestricted distributionWaterhouse, 1993; Turner et al., 1995; EPPO, 2014
PhilippinesRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1979; Waterhouse, 1993; EPPO, 2014
SingaporePresentWaterhouse, 1993
Sri LankaRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
TaiwanRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
ThailandRestricted distributionNapompeth, 1990; Waterhouse, 1993; EPPO, 2014
VietnamPresentHolm et al., 1979; Waterhouse, 1993


MauritiusRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014

North America

USAWidespreadHaselwood and Motter, 1966; EPPO, 2014
-HawaiiPresentHaselwood and Motter, 1966; EPPO, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

JamaicaPresentAdams, 1972
United States Virgin IslandsRestricted distributionEPPO, 2014


American SamoaPresentHolm et al., 1979
AustraliaRestricted distributionBodkin, 1991; EPPO, 2014
Cook IslandsPresentHolm et al., 1979
FijiRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
GuamPresentHolm et al., 1979
Marshall IslandsPresentHolm et al., 1979
NauruPresentHolm et al., 1979
New CaledoniaPresentHolm et al., 1979
Norfolk IslandPresentHolm et al., 1979
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentHolm et al., 1979
PalauPresentHolm et al., 1979
Papua New GuineaPresentHolm et al., 1979
Pitcairn IslandPresentHolm et al., 1979
SamoaPresentHolm et al., 1979
Solomon IslandsPresentHolm et al., 1979
TokelauPresentHolm et al., 1979
TongaPresentHolm et al., 1979
VanuatuPresentHolm et al., 1979

Risk of Introduction

Top of page M. malabathricum is listed as a Federal Noxious Weed in the USA. It is also listed as a state noxious weed in Hawaii. The berries and minute seeds of M. malabathricum are plant parts that may contaminate agricultural products harvested from the same environment (Westbrooks, 1989).


Top of page M. malabathricum is a plant of secondary forests in the moist tropics of South-East Asia, flourishing in open, disturbed sites associated with plantation crops. It is also found in upland and tidal ricefields and tends to build up to dense, pure stands.

Biology and Ecology

Top of page M. malabathricum is an evergreen shrub that reproduces by berries. The berries are eaten and distributed by birds and are also dispersed by water (Neal, 1965). The plant prefers rich, well-composted, well-drained, moist soils, in a protected sunny site. It is susceptible to drought and frost. Propagation as an ornamental is by seed or cuttings (Bodkin, 1991). According to Neal (1965), the plant is grown as ornamental, has edible fruit, has medicinal value as an astringent, and is used as a dye.

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Altica cyanea Herbivore
Ategumia adipalis Herbivore Leaves
Ategumia fatualis Herbivore Leaves
Rhynchopalpus brunella Herbivore Growing point/Inflorescence

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Natural enemies of M. malabathricum were surveyed in South-East Asia by Krauss (1965). He found 26 insect species associated with this weed, of which three Lepidoptera were selected for introduction into Hawaii for control of the weed. A list of these and other more recent records is included in Waterhouse (1994). These insects do not provide adequate control; however, Waterhouse (1994) suggests that, as it is not an important weed further east in Papua New Guinea, there may be other more effective natural enemies to be found there.


Top of page M. malabathricum is recognized as an important weed in 1- to 8-year-old plantations of mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) in Sumatra, Indonesia (Nazif and Pratiwi, 1989). It is also a primary weed commonly found growing in industrial forest plantations of Benakat, Sumatra, Indonesia. Affected plantations include Acacia crassicarpa, A. leptocarpa, A. mangium, Eucalyptus deglupta, E. urophylla, Gmelina arborea, Peronema canescens, Pinus caribaea and Schima wallichii (Pratiwi and Nazif, 1989).

It is also considered a problem weed in its native range in Malaysia (Ooi, 1992) where it is a weed in pineapple plantations and other cropping situations where Imperata cylindrica is controlled (Yeoh and Pushparajah, 1976; Lee, 1983). In such situations, the establishment of legume cover crops after control of I. cylindrica may overcome the problem (Yeoh, 1980). In Hawaii, it is a weed of pastures and range lands, where it forms dense thickets and crowds out desirable forage (Haselwood and Motter, 1966). M. malabathricum is also a weed of rubber plantations (Hevea brasiliensis) in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, and western Africa (Holm et al., 1977).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Dubautia imbricata subsp. imbricata (bog dubautia)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesNatureServe, 2010
Dubautia pauciflorula (Wahiawa Bog dubautia)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesNatureServe, 2010
Phyllostegia wawrana (fuzzystem phyllostegia)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009
Viola helenae (Wahiawa stream violet)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition

Detection and Inspection

Top of page Fruits and seeds are the parts of the plant that are likely to be intercepted as contaminants of imported commodities (Westbrooks, 1989).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page Apart from the confusion between M. malabathricum and M. affine (see Notes on Taxonomy), there do not appear to be problems in distinguishing this species from related or similar weed species.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Chemical Control

Triclopyr has apparently been used for control of M. malabathricum (and other shrubs) in Malaysia; a study comparing three methods of application concluded that controlled-droplet application at very low volume required least labour, but that knapsack or power sprayers were more suitable for dense and tall infestations (Ahmad-Faiz, 1989).

In trials in pineapples at three sites in Malaysia, M. malabathricum was best controlled by diuron, this being superior to butralin, atrazine, bromacil and fluometuron (Lee, 1983).

Biological Control

In 1986, a study in Malaysia demonstrated that M. malabathricum is damaged by Altica cyanea feeding; it is thus important to conserve natural reservoirs for biological control agents (Ooi, 1987). In an earlier test in which the insects were caged with leaf cuttings of eggplant, oil palm, and cocoa, there were no signs of feeding injury on any of the plants. In this test, both larvae and adults fed voraciously on leaves of M. malabathricum and proved to be relatively host-specific (Kamarudin and Shah, 1978).

Biological control has been attempted in Hawaii using moths imported from South-East Asia. Two pyralids, Ategumia adipalis from Malaysia (1965) and A. fatualis from the Philippines (1958) became established but are not effective. A noctuid, Rhynchopalpus brunella from Singapore and Malaysia (1965), which damages the foliage and causes dieback, was more successful and provides partial control (Waterhouse, 1994).


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Adams C, 1972. Flowering plants of Jamaica. Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies.

Ahmad Faiz MA, 1989. Performance of three spray applicators on weed control in hilly terrain. Planters' Bulletin Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia, No. 200:100-104

Bodkin F, 1991. Encyclopedia Botanica. The essential reference guide to native and exotic plants in Australia. North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia: Cornstalk Publishing.

Davis CJ, 1974. Recent introductions for biological control-18. Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society, 21(3):355-358

EPPO, 2014. PQR database. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization.

Gryzenhout M, Rodas CA, Mena Portales J, Clegg P, Wingfield BD, Wingfield MJ, 2006. Novel hosts of the Eucalyptus canker pathogen Chrysoporthe cubensis and a new Chrysoporthe species from Colombia. Mycological Research, 110(7):833-845.

Haselwood E, Motter G, 1966. Handbook of Hawaiian Weeds. Hawaii: Experiment Station of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association.

Hiratsuka M, Toma T, Diana R, Hadriyanto D, Morikawa Y, 2006. Biomass recovery of naturally regenerated vegetation after the 1998 forest fire in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. JARQ, Japan Agricultural Research Quarterly, 40(3):277-282.

Holm LG, Pancho JV, Herberger JP, Plucknett DL, 1979. A geographical atlas of world weeds. New York, USA: John Wiley and Sons, 391 pp.

Holm LG, Plucknett DL, Pancho JV, Herberger JP, 1977. The World's Worst Weeds. Distribution and Biology. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: University Press of Hawaii.

Kalita RK, Bora DP, Dutta D, 2002. Vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizal association with some native plants. Indian Journal of Forestry, 25(1/2):143-146.

Kamal Adzham Kamarudin, Aziz Shah, 1978. The potential of Haltica cyanea Weber (Col.: Chrysomelidae) as a biological control agent of Melastoma malabathricum Linn. MARDI Research Bulletin, 6(1):15-24

Kon KF, 1993. Recent name changes of weeds and plants associated with plantation crops. Planter, 69(806):189-190

Kostermans AJGH, Wirjahardja S, Dekker RJ, 1987. The weeds: description, ecology and control. Weeds of rice in Indonesia [edited by Soerjani, M.; Kostermans, A.J.G.H.; Tjitrosoepomo, G.] Jakarta, Indonesia; Balai Pustaka, 24-565

Krishnan RM, 2001. Microsites and diversity of understorey shrubs in Southern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Tropical Forest Science, 13(2):258-269.

Lee S, 1983. Effectiveness of pre-emergence herbicides at three localities in peninsular Malaysia. MARDI Research Bulletin, 11(3):320-327.

Napompeth B, 1990. Country report: Thailand. Biological control of weeds in Thailand. BIOTROP Special Publication, No. 38:23-36; [a symposium on weed management held in Bogor, Indonesia, 7-9 June 1989].

NatureServe, 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. Arlington, Virginia, USA:

Nazif M, Pratiwi, 1989. Weed species of Swietenia macrophylla plantations in the reforested area at Benekat, South Sumatra. Buletin Penelitian Hutan Bogor, Indonesia; Pusat Penelitian dan Pengembangan Hutan, No. 520:31-41

Neal M, 1965. In gardens of Hawaii. Special Publication 50. Honolulu, Hawaii: Bishop Museum Press.

Ooi P, 1992. Biological control of weeds in Malaysian plantations. In: Proceedings of the First International Weed Control Congress, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Weed Science Society of Victoria, Inc., 248-255.

Ooi PAC, 1987. A Melastoma-feeding chrysomelid beetle, Altica cyanea. Malayan Nature Journal, 41(2-3):379-382

Pratiwi, Nazif M, 1989. Identification of important weeds in some industrial forest plantations at Benakat, South Sumatra. Buletin Penelitian Hutan Bogor, Indonesia; Pusat Penelitian dan Pengembangan Hutan, No. 519:55-67

Turner I, Ong B, Tan H, 1995. Vegetation analysis, leaf structure and nutrient status of a Malaysian heath community. Biotropica, 27(1):2-12.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008. In: 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Viola helenae (no common name). US Fish and Wildlife Service, 6 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009. In: 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Phyllostegia wawrana (no common name). US Fish and Wildlife Service, 5 pp.

Waterhouse DF, 1993. The Major Arthropod Pests and Weeds of Agriculture in Southeast Asia. ACIAR Monograph No. 21. Canberra, Australia: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, 141 pp.

Westbrooks R, 1989. Regulatory exclusion of Federal Noxious Weeds from the United States. Ph.D. Dissertation. Raleigh, North Carolina: Department of Botany, North Carolina State University.

Yasunaga T, 1993. First record of Hyalopeplus vitripennis (Stal) (Heteroptera, Miridae) from Japan. Japanese Journal of Entomology, 61(3):510

Yeoh CH, 1980. Control of Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv. (lalang) in Malaysia's smallholdings. Proceedings of a BIOTROP Workshop on Alang-alang, Bogor, 1976., 89-111

Yeoh CH, Pushparajah E, 1976. Chemical control of Imperata cylindrica (L) Beauv. (lalang) in Malaysia. Proceedings of the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia Planters' Conference, 1976., 250-273

Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Distribution Maps

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