Molecular Biology and Genetics

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Melastoma affine

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Melastoma affine

Melastoma affine, also known by the common names Malayalam : കലദി, Blue Tongue or Native Lassiandra, Nekkarika in Kannada, is a shrub of the Melastomataceae family. Distributed in tropical and sub-tropical forests of India, South-east Asia and Australia, it is a plant of rainforest margins. Bees are the principal pollinators of this species.


Melastoma affine was first described by Scottish botanist David Don in 1823.[1] The taxonomy of the genus Melastoma is tricky, requiring a complete revision.[2][3] Early genetics studies were published from 2001,[4] through to recently,[5] but a revision based on them has yet to be. In 2001 Karsten Meyer proposed a revision in which this species and other species were subsumed within the species Melastoma malabathricum.[6]

In Australia, currently most authorities do not accept this; instead the naturally occurring populations in WA, NT, Qld and north eastern NSW remain recognised as this species M. affine,[1][7][8] except by authorities in Qld.[9][10]


It is found as a shrub to 2 m (7 ft) in height. The leaves are ovate and measure 6 to 12 cm (2.4-4.8 in) in length, and 2–4 cm (0.8-1.6 in) wide. Covered in fine hair they have longitudinal veins. Appearing in spring and summer, the flowers occur on the ends of branchlets and are purple with five petals and sepals.[8] There are two sets of distinctive stamens, five opposite the petals and five opposite the sepals. The antesepalous ones have long anthers with a bilobed appendage at their base.[3] It produces 8mm long purple fruits that split open to expose a redish to purple flesh with many small seeds.[11] The common name "blue tongue" refers to the edible purplish-black pulp within the fruit capsules which stains the mouth blue.[12]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Melastoma affine is found from India through southeast Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia and into Australia.[13] Within Australia, it is found from the Kimberleys in Western Australia,[13] across the Northern Territory and Queensland,[14] and reaches as far south as Kempsey on the New South Wales mid north coast.[8] It grows in wet areas in sclerophyll forest.[8]

M. affine is important as being a pioneer species that colonises disturbed wet-sclerophyll and rain forest habitats in the Australasian region.[13] It produces no nectar - giving pollinators large amounts of pollen instead, which must be extracted through pores on the anthers.[13] Melastoma affine is pollinated by bees, particularly Xylocopa bombylans, X. aff. gressittii, Amegilla anomola and Nomia species.[13] Honeybees outcompete native bees for pollen at flowers, impacting on the species' reproduction.[15]


A fast-growing and adaptable shrub, Melastoma affine is sometimes seen in cultivation. It can be propagated by seed or cuttings.[14]


  1. ^ a b c "Melastoma affine D.Don". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government. Retrieved 9 Mar 2013. 
  2. ^ Whiffin, Trevor (1990). "Melastoma" (online version). Flora of Australia: Volume 18: Podostemaceae to Combretaceae. Flora of Australia series. CSIRO Publishing / Australian Biological Resources Study. p. 247–248. ISBN 978-0-644-10472-2. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Whiffin, Trevor (1990). "Melastoma affine" (online version). Flora of Australia: Volume 18: Podostemaceae to Combretaceae. Flora of Australia series. CSIRO Publishing / Australian Biological Resources Study. page 248, figs 61, 86, map 346. ISBN 978-0-644-10472-2. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Clausing, G.; Renner, Susanne S. (2001). "Molecular phylogenetics of Melastomataceae and Memecylaceae: implications for character evolution". American Journal of Botany 88 (3): 486–498. doi:10.2307/2657114. Retrieved 19 June 2013.  – see also the erratum.
  5. ^ Michelangeli, Fabián A.; Guimaraes, Paulo J. F.; Penneys, Darin S. et al. (2013). "Phylogenetic relationships and distribution of New World Melastomeae (Melastomataceae)". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 171 (1): 38–60. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2012.01295.x. ISSN 1095-8339. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Meyer, Karsten (2001). "Revision of the Southeast Asian genus Melastoma (Melastomataceae)". Blumea 46 (2): 351–398. 
  7. ^ Hosking, J. R.; Conn, B. J.; Lepschi, B. J.; Barker, C. H. (2011). "Plant species first recognised as naturalised or naturalising for New South Wales in 2004 and 2005". Cunninghamia 12 (1): 85–114. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d Wilson, Peter G. (July 2001). "Melastoma affine D.Don – New South Wales Flora Online". PlantNET - The Plant Information Network System. 2.0. Sydney, Australia: The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  9. ^ Hyland, B. P. M.; Whiffin, T.; Zich, F. A. et al. (Dec 2010). "Factsheet – Melastoma malabathricum subsp. malabathricum". Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants. Edition 6.1, online version [RFK 6.1]. Cairns, Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, through its Division of Plant Industry; the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research; the Australian Tropical Herbarium, James Cook University. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  10. ^ Bostock, P.D.; Holland, A.E., eds. (2010). Census of the Queensland Flora 2010. Brisbane: Queensland Herbarium, Department of Environment and Resource Management. p. 101. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Blue Tongue - Native Lassiandra - Melastoma affine". Fruit and Nut Trees - Fruit Bearing Plants. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ Low, Tim (1991). Wild Food Plants Of Australia. Australia: Angus & Robertson. p. 59. ISBN 0207169306. 
  13. ^ a b c d e Gross, Caroline L. (Dec 1993). "The Breeding System and Pollinators of Melastoma affine (Melastomataceae); A Pioneer Shrub in Tropical Australia". Biotropica 25 (4): 468–74. doi:10.2307/2388870. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Elliot, Rodger W.; Jones, David L.; Blake, Trevor (1993). Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Suitable for Cultivation:Volume 6 - K-M. Port Melbourne: Lothian Press. p. 375. ISBN 0-85091-589-9. 
  15. ^ Gross, Caroline L.; Mackay, D. (1998). "Honeybees reduce fitness in the pioneer shrub Melastoma affine (Melastomataceae)". Biological Conservation 86 (2): 169–78. doi:10.1016/S0006-3207(98)00010-X. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
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