Monday, March 22, 2010

Melastoma malabathricum

Botanical Name

This showy bush rapidly colonises wastelands as their seeds are dispersed by birds. As such, the Straits Rhododendron is often considered a weed. The beautiful flowers last only one day, opening after sunrise, closing the same day, with the petals falling off on the a few days later. The flower has two different kinds of stamens.

The seeds are tasteless and can be eaten, but stains the tongue black. In fact, the word melastoma is Greek for "black mouth".

How to grow:
This flowering shrub is not fussy about soil type and M. malabathricum can also be grown in areas with clayey soil but it definitely does better in soil that is fertile and friable. It should be noted that its roots should be consistently moist and plants should not be allowed to dry out between watering. It is a suitable candidate as a marginal plant for bogs and water gardens.

The young leaves are eaten raw or cooked and taste sour. The pulp around the seeds can also be eaten (Indonesia). The seeds are used to produce a black dye, the roots, a pink dye. In some places, the leaves are fed to silkworms. Leaves are used to treat diarrhoea and dysentery (Malaysia, Indonesia); wash for ulcers, to prevent scarring from smallpox; and to treat piles.

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