Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

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Miconia calvescens
DC., Melastomataceae
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Present on Pacific Islands?  yes

Primarily a threat at high elevations?  no

Risk assessment results:  Hawai‘i/Pacific:  High risk, score: 14 (Go to the risk assessment)
Risk assessment of Miconia calvescens from the Government of Queensland, Australia (PDF format)

Other Latin names:  Merremia magnifica Triana

Common name(s): [more details]

English: bush currant, miconia, purple plague, velvetleaf

Habit:  tree

Description:  An evergreen tree up to 15 m tall, with large, attractive leaves dark green above and purple beneath. The leaves have three distinctive veins running from the base to the tip of the leaf. Flowers are sweet-scented, short-lived, white to pink in color. Fruits are dark purple, sweet, and attractive to birds.

"Tree 4-8 (-16) m, the young branchlets, inflorescences, bracts (externally), and hypanthia moderately but rather deciduously stellate-puberulous; young branchlets quadrisulcate but terete with age, with a faint interpetiolar line at the nodes.  Leaf blades oblong-elliptic, shortly blunt-acuminate at the apex, obtuse to rounded (occasionally cordulate) at the base, firm-membranaceous and obscurely undulate-serrulate, 17-30 (-40) cm long, 7-15 (-25) cm wide, 3-nerved (excluding the tenuous marginals) with the plane venules beneath laxly reticulate; petioles 3-6 cm long.  Panicle 20-30 (-50) cm long and multiflorous, with paired primary branches; flowers 5-merous and sessile, the oblong bracteoles 2-3 mm long and caducous.  Hypanthium 2-2.7 mm long; calyx tube 0.6-0.7 mm long, the broadly triangular interior lobes 0.1-0.3 mm long, the adnate external teeth not projecting.  Petals white and glabrous on the surfaces but sometimes sparsely gland-edged, (2.3-) 2.8-3.1 mm long, (1-) 1.4-1.9 mm wide, oblong-obovate.  Stamens slightly dimorphic; filaments (2.8-) 3.8-4.2 mm or (2.6-) 3.2-3.9 mm, glabrous or very sparsely glandular; thecae (2.2-) 3-3.1 mm or (1.9-) 2.6-2.8 mm long, oblong-subulate, 1-pored; connective not or slightly (to 0.4 mm) prolonged, bilobulate ventrally and tuberculate dorsally, usually beset with a few glands.  Stigma slightly expanded; style glabrous or sparsely glandular, slightly immersed in the ovary apex; ovary 3-celled and 1/2-2/3 inferior, the apex granulose or sparsely glandular" (Wurdak, 1980).

"Branchlets, these often sulcate, inflorescences and sometimes the 5 leaf nerves beneath more or less mealy-pubescent with minute stellate trichomes; petioles 2-6 cm long; leaves somewhat undulate or repand-denticulate, ovate or oblong elliptic, acute or acuminate, rounded or subcordate at base, to narrowed (rarely), in age glabrous or nearly, sometimes 4 dm long; flowers mostly congested at the ends of the spreading-ascending panicle branchlets; calyx about 3 mm long, nearly entire; petals 2-3 mm long; connective minutely bilobed anteriorly; style 5-7 mm long, the stigma subpeltate" (Macbride, 1941; p. 393).

wpe65.jpg (38864 bytes)
Miconia calvescens in Tahiti.  Entire hillsides are covered except for the larger trees that Miconia cannot overtop.  When these eventually die, a monospecific stand of Miconia will result. Photo of Miconia calvescens in Tahiti by Jim Space.
 

Habitat/ecology:  "Forests and forest edges, grassland.  In the native range, this plant is common in humid thickets and in riparian habitats from lowland to montane tropical forests.  It is a fast growing, shade tolerant tree that completely transforms invaded communities into species-poor stands.  The tree creates dense shade that eliminates almost all other species under its canopies.  Invaded slopes are prone to landslides as the weak root system does not hold the soil well and the soil lacks a herbaceous ground cover"  (Weber, 2003; p. 268).

Moist and wet forests from sea level to 5000 feet in Hawai‘i (1300 m in French Polynesia). Reproduces even in dense shade and eventually shades out all other plants except mature tall trees. "Miconia is considered by many natural area managers as Hawai‘i's most threatening weed.  Brought to Hawai‘i from Central America in the late 1950s as an ornamental, this highly invasive tree rapidly naturalized and spread.  Nearly all mesic and wet Hawaiian forests (>60 inches of rain per year) are potentially threatened if invasion is left unchecked.  Miconia tolerates shade and and forms dense stands with heavy shade that replace native species, alter habitats, and may contribute to soil erosion.  (Motooka et al., 2003).  In New Caledonia, "importé comme plante ornementale de Tahiti où il est maintenant considéré comme un fléau. Encore rare sur le Territoire; devient localement envahissant mais pourra probablement être éliminé" (MacKee, 1994; p. 100).

Propagation:  Seed, spread by wind, water and birds. Trees produce thousands of tiny bird-dispersed fruits at maturity. Most long-range spread is by frugivorous birds. Can be spread by seeds carried on shoes, equipment, etc. "A single mature plant can produce millions of seeds per year that are spread by birds or in soil on shoes, equipment, or the hooves of ungulates"  (Motooka et al., 2003)

Native range:  "Central and South America, where it occurs from about 18 degrees north to about 26 degrees south, and from lowlands to montane forests up to 1800 m in elevation" (Csurhes & Edwards, 1998; pp. 44-46).

Presence:

Pacific
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
French Polynesia
Marquesas Islands
Fatu Hiva Island introduced
invasive
Lorence, David H./Wagner, Warren L. (2013)
French Polynesia
Marquesas Islands
Fatu Hiva Island introduced
invasive
Florence, J./Chevillotte, H./Ollier, C./Meyer, J.-Y. (2013)
Voucher cited: D.H. Lorence, L. Dunn, S.P. Perlman, K.R. Wood & J.-Y. Meyer 9027 (PAP)
Naturalisée, menace pour la biodiversité.
French Polynesia
Marquesas Islands
Fatu Hiva Island   National Tropical Botanical Garden (U.S.A. Hawaii. Kalaheo.) (2003) (voucher ID: PTBG 39293)
Taxon name on voucher: Miconia calvescens
French Polynesia
Marquesas Islands
Nuku Hiva (Nukahiva) Island introduced
invasive
Lorence, David H./Wagner, Warren L. (2013)
French Polynesia
Marquesas Islands
Nuku Hiva (Nukahiva) Island introduced
invasive
Florence, J./Chevillotte, H./Ollier, C./Meyer, J.-Y. (2013)
Voucher cited: K.R. Wood, J.-Y. Meyer, J.-P. Luce & W. Tetuanui 6334 (PAP)
Naturalisée, menace pour la biodiversité.
French Polynesia
Marquesas Islands
Nuku Hiva (Nukahiva) Island   National Tropical Botanical Garden (U.S.A. Hawaii. Kalaheo.) (1997) (voucher ID: PTBG 27727)
Taxon name on voucher: Miconia calvescens DC.
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Moorea Island introduced
invasive
Welsh, S. L. (1998) (p. 182)
Voucher cited: Florence 7818
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Moorea Island introduced
invasive
Florence, J./Chevillotte, H./Ollier, C./Meyer, J.-Y. (2013)
Vouchers cited: J. Florence 7818 (PAP), P. Birnbaum 77 (PAP)
Naturalisée, menace pour la biodiversité.
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Moorea Island   Bishop Museum (Honolulu) (1986) (voucher ID: BISH 544426)
Taxon name on voucher: Miconia calvescens DC.
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Raiatea (Havai) Island   Fosberg, F. R. (1997) (p. 76)
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Raiatea (Havai) Island introduced
invasive
Florence, J./Chevillotte, H./Ollier, C./Meyer, J.-Y. (2013)
Voucher cited: J. Florence & P. Birnbaum 9945 (PAP)
Naturalisée, Menace pour la biodiversité
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Tahiti Island introduced
invasive
Welsh, S. L. (1998) (p. 182)
Vouchers cited: BRY 25764, Fosberg & Stone 61311
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Tahiti Island introduced
invasive
Florence, J./Chevillotte, H./Ollier, C./Meyer, J.-Y. (2013)
Vouchers cited: J. Florence 2645 (PAP), J. Florence 5043 (PAP), J. Florence 8773 (PAP), P. Birnbaum 78 (PAP)
Naturalisée. Menace pour la biodiversité.
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Tahiti Island   Bishop Museum (Honolulu) (1982) (voucher ID: BISH 493267)
Taxon name on voucher: Miconia calvescens DC.
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Tahiti Island   Bishop Museum (Honolulu) (1988) (voucher ID: BISH 583633)
Taxon name on voucher: Miconia calvescens DC.
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Tahiti Island   Bishop Museum (Honolulu) (1988) (voucher ID: BISH 583634)
Taxon name on voucher: Miconia calvescens DC.
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Tahiti Island   Bishop Museum (Honolulu) (1988) (voucher ID: BISH 583635)
Taxon name on voucher: Miconia calvescens DC.
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Tahiti Island   Bishop Museum (Honolulu) (1988) (voucher ID: BISH 583636)
Taxon name on voucher: Miconia calvescens DC.
French Polynesia
Society Islands
Tahiti Island   National Tropical Botanical Garden (U.S.A. Hawaii. Kalaheo.) (1981) (voucher ID: PTBG 37701)
Taxon name on voucher: Miconia calvescens DC.
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Hawai‘i (Big) Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (pp. 903, 1884)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Kaua‘i Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Conant, Patrick (1996) (pp. 1-2)
Voucher cited: A. Bell sub D. Lawrence 7715 (BISH, PTBG)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Maui Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (pp. 903, 1884)
East Maui
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
O‘ahu Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Conant, Patrick (1996) (pp. 1-2)
Vouchers cited: P. Conant s.n. (BISH, 2 specimens)
New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia Islands introduced
Meyer, Jean-Yves (2000) (p. 100)
"Potential invader".
New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia Islands introduced
invasive
cultivated
Gargominy, Oliver/Bouchet, Philipe/Pascal, Michel/Jaffre, Tanguy/Tourneu, Jean-Christophe (1996) (p. 382)
Only one location.
Importé de Tahiti où il est maintenant considéré comme un fléau. Encore rare sur le Territoire; une seule localité.
New Caledonia
New Caledonia Archipelago
Île Grande Terre introduced
invasive
cultivated
MacKee, H. S. (1994) (p. 100)
Voucher cited: Baudin 356 (NOU)
Pacific Rim
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Australia
Australia (continental)
Queensland introduced
invasive
Csurhes, S./Edwards, R. (1998) (p. 44)
Subject of an eradication program.
Colombia
Colombia
Colombia (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Ecuador (Mainland)
Ecuador
Ecuador (Republic of) (continental) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Mexico
Mexico
Mexico (United Mexican States) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Chiapas
Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Panama
Panama
Panama (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Perú
Perú
Perú (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Singapore
Singapore
Singapore (Republic of) introduced
cultivated
Chong, Kwek Yan/Tan, Hugh T. W./Corlett, Richard T. (2009) (p. 61)
Cultivated only

Comments:  On the State of Hawai‘i noxious weed list.

It has become established in northern Queensland, Australia, where an eradication effort is beginning (Csurhes & Edwards, 1998; pp. 44-46).

Miconia is the greatest invasive species problem in French Polynesia. It has become established in Hawai‘i, where it shows every indication of being just as bad. It is presently subject of an eradication effort in Hawai‘i. Other oceanic islands should be vigilant to keep this very dangerous pest out or to immediately eradicate it if discovered.

Reported to be naturalized in Jamaica and Sri Lanka (Csurhes & Edwards, 1998; pp. 44-46).

Subject of an eradication program in New Caledonia (Meyer & Jourdan, 2005).

Control: 

Physical:  "Smaller saplings are easy to grub out by hand" (Motooka et al., 2003).

Chemical:  "Sensitive to triclopyr ester in foliar applications (E. Tamura, HDOA), to cut surfaces and as basal bark treatments, and also to glyphosate applied to cut surfaces.  Thin line application of undiluted triclopyr ester effective" 

Biological:  "Biocontrol agents from Latin America are being evaluated for control of velvet tree.  A fungus (Colletotrichum gloesporioides  f. sp. miconiae) has been established on Hawaii and Maui, where it has caused leaf spotting and early leaf drop (Pat Conant, HDOA)" (Motooka et al., 2003).

"Biological control of miconia (Miconia calvescens) became a management option as the severity of its threat to Hawaiian ecosystems was recognized. No weed in Hawai‘i has received as much publicity, attention, and funding for control. Three fungal pathogens have been considered as potential agents. Colletotrichum gloesoporioides f. sp. miconiae was assessed within six months, the petition for release approved within eight months and the fungus released on the islands of Hawai‘i and Maui in 1997. It is established on Hawai‘i and has spread to other areas. Its effectiveness is under evaluation. Pseudocercospora tamonae causes extensive damage to leaves, attacks other melastomes and the seedlings of some Myrtaceae but only fruits on miconia. It is very uncertain whether this species will be approved for release. Coccodiella myconae produces large wart-like growths that deform leaves considerably. It appears to be an obligate parasite of miconia but hyperparasitized by another species tentatively identified as Sagenomella alba. It has proven difficult to transfer from one plant to another where it does not sporulate (Smith et al., 2002; p. 45).

Other potential fungal control agents include "a tar spot disease, Guignardia sp. (Dothideales. Mycosphaerellaceae), and a leaf blight, Kuronomyces sp. (Mycelia sterilis, ?Basidiomycetes)"  (Smith et al., 2002; p. 96).


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This page was created on 1 JAN 1999 and was last updated on 8 MAY 2017.