Melastoma affine (MELASTOMATACEA) Blue Tongue, Native Lasiandra

Plants to Plant

Rounded rainforest shrub, attractively veined foliage, long flowering mauve-purple flowers in summer and sweet edible fruit (which will stain your tongue blue, thus the common name). Attracts Miskin Jewel butterfly, birds. Useful wetland plant. Honey bees compete with its natural pollinator, native bees. Flowers are large with usually five mauve petals. These are followed by fruits which split open to reveal red to purple flesh with numerous small seeds. Leaves ovate, 6-12 cm long, 2-4 cm wide, discolorous, covered with short, stiff hairs; three main veins and two less conspicuous intramarginal veins; petiole up to 10 mm long. M. affine occurs well beyond Australia, through much of Indonesia and some Pacific Islands. The taxonomy of the melastoma group is tricky with Meyer proposing to revise this species into M. malabathricum subsp. malabathricum in Blumea 46(2): 351–398 (2001). However, this hasn’t been fully accepted (Wikipedia). M. affine is important as being a pioneer species that colonises disturbed wet sclerophyll and rainforest habitats in the Australasian region. It produces no nectar giving pollinators large amounts of pollen instead, which must be extracted through pores on the anthers according to C. L. Gross in “The Breeding System and Pollinators of Melastoma affine (Melastomataceae); A Pioneer Shrub in Tropical Australia”. Biotropica, Vol. 25, No. 4. (Dec., 1993), pp. 468-474.

Photo: Robert Whyte