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melastoma malabathricum | blue tongue

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Posted by EDITOR 16 Feb 2011 - 11:57:00 AM

The various Glory Bush or Lasiandra (Tibouchina) are popular for either a domestic-scale tree or a small colourful shrub even though many find the intensity of their purple flowers a bit over-the-top.

A subtler alternative to the smaller hedging shrubs like ‘Jules’ and ‘Jazzie’ is a relative with an identity crisis called Melastoma.

Debate continues whether it should be called Melastoma malabathricum or Melastoma affine and even whether they are one variable species or two different species: one with 7-petalled flowers and the other – found from India, down through South East Asia, north and east Australia to the NSW Mid North Coast – with 5-6 petals. The drift appears to lump them together as Melastoma malabathricum.

Botanical details aside … we’re talking about a shrub to about 2m high with pink-purple flowers that are short-lived but flush continually over summer. Although never as prolific, that’s a full season before the Tibouchina start up in autumn. Big flowers on broad, dark green leaves produce a lush, tropical effect that doesn’t conform at all to the stereotype of natives. Edible fruit that stain the mouth – leading to the common name of Blue Tongue – are another bonus.

The trade-off is all that richness needs water to keep up appearances. It’s comfortable even in boggy conditions. A regular trim after flowers – and fruit – finish will help a fuller shape to form.

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