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Melastoma affine, also known by the common names 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.

Taxonomy

Melastoma affine was first described by Scottish botanist David Don in 1823.[1] 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 has not been fully accepted (Australian Plant Census – Melastomataceae).

Description

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[quantify] petals and sepals.[2] There are two sets of distinctive stamens, five opposite the petals and five opposite the sepals. The antisepalous ones in particular have very large long anthers with a bilobed appendage at their base. The purple fruits are edible and stain the mouth blue, thus the common name.

Distribution and habitat

Melastoma affine is found from India through southeast Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia and into Australia.[3] Within Australia, it is found from the Kimberleys in Western Australia,[3] across the Northern Territory and Queensland,[4] and reaches as far south as Kempsey on the New South Wales mid north coast.[2] It grows in wet areas in sclerophyll forest.[2]

M. affine is important as being a pioneer species that colonises disturbed wet-sclerophyll and rain forest habitats in the Australasian region.[3] It produces no nectar – giving pollinators large amounts of pollen instead, which must be extracted through pores on the anthers.[3] Melastoma affine is pollinated by bees, particularly Xylocopa bombylans, X. aff. gressittii , Amegilla anomola and Nomia species.[3] Honeybees outcompete native bees for pollen at flowers, impacting on the species’ reproduction.[5]

M. affine is a known hyperaccumulator of Aluminium, and as such can be used for phytoremediation.[6]

Cultivation

A fast growing and adaptable shrub, Melastoma affine is sometimes seen in cultivation. It can be propagated by seed or cuttings.[4]

Food product

In 2011, students from Faculty of Food Technology in Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Malaysia are developing food product produced from fruits of Melastoma malabathricum. The product is called Senduduk Jam with Peanut Butter Stripes or in Malay Language known as “Jem Senduduk dengan Mentega Kacang”. This project is led by Shah Reza Hussein with team members Che Ku Zulaika Haryantie Che Ku Mat, Fleura Siew Tuck May, Mohd Nor Shazwan Mohd Ra’uf, Mohd. Tarmizi Zakaria, Nurul Faizatul Dila Abd Rani and Zulhilmi Norazmi. The aim of this project is to utilise under-utilised fruits of Melastoma malabathricum and develop it into a new product that is attractive to the consumers.

Written on June 18th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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