Memecylon caeruleum

Family : Melastomataceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini


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The Memecylon caeruleum can be even 8 m tall in South-Eastern Asia © Giuseppe Mazza

The species is native to Andaman Islands, Cambodia, China (Hainan, Xizang and Yunnan), India, Indonesia, Nicobar Islands, Peninsular Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam where it grows in the forests from the sea level up to about 1200 of altitude.

The name of the genus is that given by Dioscorides (ca. 40-ca. 90) to the Arbutus unedo L.; the specific name is the Latin adjective “caeruleus, a, um” = light blue, with reference to the colour of the flowers.

Common names: blue strawberry flowers, Javanese nipis (English); phlong ka-ek (Cambodia); tian lan gu mu (China); delek jamu putih (Indonesia); delik-delik jambu, pokok nipis kulit (Malaysia); phlong khee khwaai, phlong khee nok, phlong khee tai (Thailand); sầm lam (Vietnam).

The Memecylon caeruleum Jack (1820) is a shrub or small evergreen tree, 3-8 m tall, with cylindrical trunk and smooth and brown bark in the young branches, wrinkly and greyish in the older ones. The leaves, on a 3-6 mm long petiole, are opposite, simple, oblong-elliptic with acute, obtuse or retuse apex and entire margin, 8-15 cm long and 3-6 cm broad, coriaceous, of dark green colour and glossy above.

Inflorescences, on a 0,5-1 cm long peduncle, axillar, compact, of 1,5-3 cm of diameter, carrying numerous tiny flowers with cup shaped hypanthium, 3-4 mm long, 4 sepals, 4 ovate petals, 2-3 mm long, of red colour externally, intense blue internally, and 8 stamens, about 2,5 mm long, of blue colour. Obovoid fruits, about 1,5 cm long and of 1 cm of diameter, initially of pink to red colour, then blackish purple or black when ripe, edible, usually containing only one seed immersed in a purple juicy pulp.

It easily reproduces by seed in fertile loam, with addition of sand per a 30% to improve the drainage, maintained humid at the temperature of 26-28 °C; it also propagates by cutting and by air layering.

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The tiny flowers are the family jewels of the Melastomataceae: 8 stamens drawing a diamond on the intense blue of the petals, red externally © Giuseppe Mazza

Attractive specie due to the foliage and the intensely coloured tiny flowers produced for most of the year, utilizable as isolated specimen, for fences and borders, bearing well the prunings, and as road tree in parks and gardens in the tropical and subtropical climate regions.

It requires full sun or a slight shade and fertile soils, well drained, maintained almost constantly humid; it stands the moderately brackish soils and the marine aerosols, it can be therefore cultivated near to the sea.

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Obovoid fruits, about 1,5 cm long and of 1 cm of diameter, initially pinkish, then blackish purple and black when ripe, are edible but of little value © Giuseppe Mazza

The fruits are locally consumed raw or roasted even if rather flavourless. The wood, that has good characteristics of resistance, hardness and density, is utilized in the constructions of the dwellings, for furniture, poles, sticks, tools and handicrafts, moreover, it is excellent as firewood, thanks to its high calorific power, and for the production of charcoal. Particular employments in the popular medicine are not known, except in some population of Malaysia where the roots are utilized in the postpartum treatments.

Synonyms: Memecylon floribundum Blume (1851); Memecylon cyanocarpum C.Y. Wu ex C. Chen (1979).


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