Melastomataceae Juss.

This family is accepted.


Melastomataceae, G. E. Wickens. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1975

Morphology General Habit
Trees, shrubs or more commonly herbs, rarely climbers, sometimes epiphytes
Morphology Leaves
Leaves opposite and decussate, rarely verticillate, sometimes anisophyllous, simple to entire, serrate, exstipulate, usually with a distinctive nervation of 2–8 strong basal nerves ± parallel to the midrib, rarely pinnately nerved
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences various, sometimes bracteate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers hermaphrodite, regular (androecium sometimes slightly zygomorphic), mostly 4–5(–6)-merous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx tubular or campanulate, free or partially adnate to the ovary or sometimes connected to it by septa-like strands (no distinction is made here between the hypanthium and calyx proper); lobes valvate or connate and forming a calyptra-like head in bud, deciduous or persistent; various appendages may alternate with or arise from the calyx-lobes
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 4–5, free or rarely united at the base, imbricate or convolute, often magenta coloured
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens perigynous or epigynous, as many as the petals or more usually twice as many as the petals and in 2 whorls, the whorls equal to very unequal; anthers usually 2-thecous, introrse, basifixed, each anther dehiscing by a single pore or more rarely by a slit (Memecylon); anther-connectives often elongated and often either tubercled or spurred at the junction with the filament; filaments often geniculate, inflexed in bud, sometimes twisted
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary 1-locular with basal placentation >i>(Memecylon) to several-locular with axile placentation; ovules usually numerous; style and stigma 1
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit a loculicidal capsule or a berry
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds small or minute, without endosperm and with a very small embryo; one cotyledon larger than the other


Melastomataceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:1. 1954

Morphology General Habit
Herbs, shrubs or trees; branches opposite
Morphology Leaves
Leaves simple, opposite or verticillate, mostly with 3 to 9 longitudinally parallel nerves; stipules 0
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers hermaphrodite, mostly very showy, actinomorphic
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx tubular, free or adnate to the ovary, or sometimes connected to it by septa-like strands; lobes imbricate or rarely valvate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals imbricate, free, rarely united at the base
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corona
Corona sometimes present
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens the same to double the number of the petals; filaments free, often geniculate, inflexed; anthers 2-celled, opening by a pore at the apex or rarely by a slit (Memecylon), connective often appendaged at the base
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary mostly inferior, 1- to many-celled; style simple; ovules numerous, axile, or rarely basal or parietal
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit a capsule or berry
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds minute, without endosperm


Melastomataceae, R. and A. Fernandes. Flora Zambesiaca 4. 1978

Morphology General Habit
Perennial or annual erect or prostrate terrestrial or epiphytic herbs, lianes, shrubs or trees, with a variable indumentum or glabrous
Morphology Leaves
Leaves opposite or sometimes verticillate, longitudinally (1)3–5–7(1 l)-nerved, rarely penninerved, simple, without stipules
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers actinomorphic or zygomorphic as regards the stamens, bisexual, (3)4–5(6)-merous Flowers in cymes, arranged in heads, fascicles or in ± ample panicles, rarely flowers solitary
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Receptacle
Receptacle free or adherent to the ovary by longitudinal ridges or ± adnate to it
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals imbricate or rarely subvalvate, caducous or persistent, rarely 0; intersepalar segments sometimes present
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals as many as the sepals, inserted on the margin of the receptacle, very rarely connate at the base, imbricate or contorted
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens epigynous, rarely perigynous, twice as many or rarely as many as the petals; filaments free, inflected in the bud; anthers basifixed, 2-locular, dehiscing by 1 apical pore (rarely by 2 and very rarely by 4) or by 2 longitudinal slits; connective produced or not at the base and provided anteriorly and/or posteriorly with appendages of several types
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary 2-¥-locular or 1-locular by suppression of the dissepiments (Memecylon), glabrous, setose or with scales at the apex; style 1, terminal, straight or curved with a dot-like or subcapitate stigma; ovules anatropous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit a many-seeded capsule, sometimes baccate, included in the receptacle, rarely semiexserted, opening by loculicidal valves, rarely dehiscing irregularly, or a berry, 1-few-seeded
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds minute, cochleate, cuneiform, pyramidal or cylindrical in the many-seeded genera and globose or hemispherical in the few-seeded ones; embryo subcylindric or sub-globose, without endosperm


Woodgyer, E.M. (2009). Neotropical Melastomataceae.


Trees (rarely tall), treelets, shrubs, herbs, lianas and epiphytes, stems often quadrangular. Epidermis glabrous or with an elaborate indumentum varying from simple , unicellular hairs to complex multicellular, non- glandular or eglandular trichomes. Leaves opposite, exstipulate , decussate , simple , entire or dentate and usually petiolate , with 2-8 lateral primary veins running sub -parallel to leaf margin diverging from or above base and converging towards  apex (sometimes uni-nerved, rarely pinnately veined); anisophylly and ant domatia (typically in the leaf bases) quite common. Inflorescences terminal and/or axillary , paniculate cymes, racemes, umbels or occasionally in glomerules, fascicles or flowers solitary. Flowers actinomorphic or often with zygomorphic stamens, often bracteolate, hermaphrodite ; hypanthium campanulate or urn-shaped; calyx lobes (3)4-5(-8), usually regularly lobed and imbricate to valvate , sometimes indistinct or absent, sometimes with external teeth or fused to form a calyptra; petals equal to number of calyx lobes, imbricate in bud , free , right- contorted , usually spreading, white, pink, purple, magenta or red, seldom orange or yellow; stamens usually twice as many as petals, isomorphic or dimorphic with inner set smaller than outer, anthers basifixed, apically dehiscent by 1-2(-4) pores, connective often prolonged and variously appendaged ventrally and/or dorsally; ovary superior to inferior (hypanthium free or adhering to  ovary completely or partially), locules 3-6, style single, elongate, stigma punctate to capitate . Fruits fleshy berries or a loculicidal capsules. Seeds numerous, straight, cuneate or curved ( cochleate ).

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Widely distributed in the Neotropics, extending as far south as northern Argentina.
Key differences from similar families

The families listed below differ from Melastomataceae in the following features:


From LoganiaceaeStrychnos (similar leaf venation):

  • Tendrils often present.
  • Corolla tubular.
  • Stamens inserted on corolla tube.


From Myrtaceae (similar hypanthium, petals free):

  • Leaves with pellucidgland dots.
  • Leaves aromatic.
  • Stamens numerous (>100).


From Memecylaceae (similar hypanthium, petals free):

  • Leaves pinnate -veined.
  • Leaf sclereids present.
  • Anther connective with a dorsal terpenoid-producing gland.
  • Fruit a berry with 1-12 large seeds.


From Rubiaceae (similar opposite leaves, hypanthium):

  • Interpetiolar stipules present.
  • Corolla gamopetalous.
  • Anthers dehiscent -longitudinally.


From Urticaceae (similar leaf venation):

  • Cystoliths on leaves and stems.
  • Stipules usually present.
  • Flowers small, usually greenish and unisexual.
  • Fruit an achene.
Useful tips for generic identification
  • Presence/absence of stamen connective appendages.
  • Position of appendages (ventral and/or dorsal).
  • Number of calyx lobes/petals.
  • Number of locules.
  • Shape and surface of seed (straight with a smooth or tubulate surface, straight with a foveolate surface or cochleate with a tubulate surface).
  • Ovary position (superior or inferior).
  • Type of fruit (capsule or berry).
Notable genera and distinguishing features

Tribe Blakeeae: flowers 6-merous, axillary, subtended by 2 pairs of persistent floral bracts; leaves thick, conspicuously cross-venulate, often with numerous strictly parallel lateralveins; fruit a berry.

  • Blakea: (100 spp.); trees, shrubs or woody vines (often epiphytic); anthers compressed laterally with 2 well-separated apical pores.


Tribe Melastomeae: often elaborate and conspicuous trichomes on leaves and hypanthia; stamens with basal-ventrally prolonged connectives; ovary crowned by persistent trichomes; fruit a capsule; seeds cochleate.

  • Brachyotum: (c. 58 spp.); shrubs or small trees; flowers pendulous; petals free but connivent and imbricate in a campanulate tube, often dark purple; stamens isomorphic.
  • Tibouchina: (c. 240 spp.); herbs, shrubs or small trees; flowers often showy; petals often magenta or deep purple; stamens often dimorphic; anther connectives ventrally bi-lobed.


Tribe Merianieae: leaves leathery; flowers large; stamens dorsally thickened and variously spurred; fruit a capsule.

  • Meriania: (c. 74 spp.); trees or shrubs; inflorescences usually terminal panicles; connective with a dorso-basal spur and sometimes with an ascending dorsal appendage also; seeds narrowly oblong -pyramidal.


Tribe Miconieae: flowers 4-5 merous; short to elongate and persistent external calyx teeth; ovary inferior; fruit a berry.

  • Clidemia: (c. 175 spp.); erect (rarely scandent or radicant) shrubs; often densely setose; inflorescences lateral or pseudolateral cymes in upper leaf axils or at branchlet nodes below the leaves.
  • Leandra: (c. 200 spp.); shrubs (rarely woody vines); flowers in terminal (sometimes pseudoterminal) panicles; petalapexacute to acuminate.
  • Miconia: the largest genus (1,000 spp.); shrubs or trees; flowers in terminal panicles; petalapexrounded.


Tribe Microlicieae: shrubby; often microphyllous; basally prolonged anther connectives; anthers rostrate; ovaryglabrous; seeds oblong or reniform with a foveolate testa.

  • Microlicia: (c. 170 spp.); branched shrubs or subshrubs, often ericoid; ovarysuperior; fruit capsular, dehiscing longitudinally from apex to base.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Leaves simple.
  • Stipules absent.
  • Hypanthium present (free or adhering to the ovary completely or partially).
  • Petals free, right-contorted.
Other important characters
  • Stems often quadrangular.
  • Leaves opposite (rarely pseudo-alternate) and decussate.
  • Epidermis often with an elaborate indumentum (glandular, stellate or simple hairs and emergences).
  • Acrodromal venation - leaf blades with 2-8 primary lateralveins running sub-parallel to the leaf margin, diverging from or above the base and converging towards the apex.
  • Filaments commonly twisted at anthesis bringing anthers to one side of the flower.
  • Stamen connectives often prolonged and variously appendaged ventrally and/or dorsally.
  • Seeds numerous.
General Description
General notes
  • Bellucia have wild edible fruit.
  • Some microphyllous species (particularly in Microlicia) have leaves with a single mid-vein only, but can easily be assigned to this family by their distinctive stamens (scythe-shaped, poricidal anthers and prolonged, often appendaged connectives).
  • A few isolated taxa, eg. Heterocentron, Loreya nigricans Triana and Macairea rufescens DC., have pinnately veined leaves.
  • The family name comes from the Greek words mela meaning black and stoma meaning mouth. Eating the edible, purple-blue berries will stain the mouth black.
  • Nectar production is rare in Melastomataceae and most species are visited by pollen-gathering bees that use thoracic vibrations (buzz pollination) to expel the pollen through the anther pores. The characteristic anther appendages probably function as a hold for the bee's legs.
Number of genera

150-166 genera and c. 4,570 species worldwide

107 genera and c. 3,000 species in the Neotropics

  • Acanthella Hook.f.
  • Aciotis D.Don
  • Acisanthera P.Browne
  • Adelobotrys DC.
  • Allomaieta Gleason
  • Alloneuron Pilg.
  • Anaectocalyx Triana ex Benth. & Hook.f.
  • Appendicularia DC.
  • Arthrostemma Pav. ex D.Don
  • Axinaea Ruiz & Pav.
  • Behuria Cham.
  • Bellucia Neck. ex Raf.
  • Benevidesia Saldanha & Cogn.
  • Bertolonia Raddi
  • Bisglaziovia Cogn.
  • Blakea P.Browne
  • Boyania Wurdack
  • Brachyotum Triana
  • Bucquetia DC.
  • Calycogonium DC.
  • Cambessedesia DC.
  • Castratella Naudin
  • Catocoryne Hook.f.
  • Centradenia G.Don
  • Centradeniastrum Cogn.
  • Centronia D.Don
  • Chaetolepis Miq.
  • Chaetostoma DC.
  • Chalybea Naudin
  • Charianthus D.Don
  • Clidemia D.Don
  • Comolia DC.
  • Comoliopsis Wurdack
  • Conostegia D.Don
  • Cyphostyla Gleason
  • Desmoscelis Naudin
  • Diplarpea Triana
  • Dolichoura Brade
  • Eriocnema Naudin
  • Ernestia DC.
  • Fritzschia Cham.
  • Graffenrieda DC.
  • Henriettea DC.
  • Henriettella Naudin
  • Heterocentron Hook. & Arn.
  • Huberia DC.
  • Huilaea Wurdack
  • Killipia Gleason
  • Kirkbridea Wurdack
  • Lavoisiera DC.
  • Leandra Raddi
  • Lithobium Bong.
  • Llewelynia Pittier
  • Loreya DC.
  • Loricalepis Brade
  • Macairea DC.
  • Macrocentrum Hook.f.
  • Maguireanthus Wurdack
  • Maieta Aubl.
  • Mallophyton Wurdack
  • Marcetia DC.
  • Mecranium Hook.f.
  • Meriania Sw.
  • Merianthera Kuhlm.
  • Miconia Ruiz & Pav.
  • Microlicia D.Don
  • Microlepis Miq.
  • Mommsenia Urb. & Ekman
  • Monochaetum ( DC. ) Naudin
  • Monolena Triana
  • Myriaspora DC.
  • Neblinanthera Wurdack
  • Necramium Britton
  • Nepsera Naudin
  • Ochthephilus Wurdack
  • Opisthocentra Hook.f.
  • Ossaea DC.
  • Pachyanthus A.Rich.
  • Pachyloma DC.
  • Pentossaea Judd
  • Phainantha Gleason
  • Physeterostemon R.Goldenb. & Amorim
  • Pilocosta Almeda & Whiffin
  • Pleiochiton Naudin ex A.Gray
  • Poteranthera Bong.
  • Pseudoernestia Krasser
  • Pterogastra Naudin
  • Pterolepis ( DC. ) Miq.
  • Rhynchanthera DC.
  • Salpinga Mart. ex DC.
  • Sandemania Gleason
  • Schwackaea Cogn.
  • Siphanthera Pohl
  • Stanmarkia Almeda
  • Stenodon Naudin
  • Svitramia Cham.
  • Tateanthus Gleason
  • Tessmannianthus Markgr.
  • Tetrazygia Rich. ex DC.
  • Tibouchina Aubl.
  • Tibouchinopsis Markgr.
  • Tococa Aubl.
  • Topobea Aubl.
  • Trembleya DC.
  • Triolena Naudin
  • Tryssophyton Wurdack
  • Wurdastom B.Walln.
  • Tibouchina are grown as ornamentals, often street trees (Tibouchina granulosa Cogn., T. mutabilis Cogn.).
  • Miconiacalvescens DC. and Clidemia hirta D.Don are aggressive weeds which have spread to the Pacific islands.
Notes on delimitation

Melastomataceae has always been considered a core family of the Myrtales and this is supported by molecular phylogenetic analyses (APG II, 2003). Melastomataceae was traditionally divided into 13 tribes (according to Triana's classification published in 1866 and slightly modified in 1871). Several have recently been recircumscribed as a result of morphological and molecular analyses (Clausing & Renner 2001, Renner 2004). The nine monophyletic tribes currently accepted are as follows:


  • Astronieae (SE Asia).
  • Bertolonieae (Neotropical).
  • Blakeeae (Neotropical).
  • Dissochaeteae (Paleotropical).
  • Kibessieae (SE Asia).
  • Melastomeae (Pantropical).
  • Merianieae (Neotropical).
  • Miconieae (Neotropical).
  • Microlicieae (Neotropical) - 90% of spp. endemic to the highlands of Eastern and Central Brazil.

Memecylaceae is sometimes ranked as a subfamily of Melastomataceae, but it is treated as a separate family here.

Important literature

APG II. 2003. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 141(4): 399-436.

Berry, P.E., Gröger, A., Holst, B.K., Morley, T., Michelangeli, F.A., Luckana, N.G., Almeda, F., Renner, S.S., Freire-Fierro, A., Robinson, O.R. & Yatskievych, K. 2001. Melastomataceae. In: Steyermark, J.A., Berry, P.E., Yatskievych, K., & Holst, B.K. (eds), Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana 6: 263-528.

Clausing, G. & Renner, S.S. 2001. Molecular phylogenetics of Melastomataceae and Memecylaceae: implications for character evolution. American J. Bot. 88(3): 486-498.

Heywood, V.H., Brummitt, R.K., Culham, A. & Seberg, O. 2007. Flowering plant families of the world. 424 pp. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Renner, S.S. 1993. Phylogeny and classification of the Melastomataceae and Memecylaceae. Nord. J. Bot. 13: 519-540.

Renner, S.S. 2004. Bayesian analysis of combined chloroplast loci, using multiple calibrations, supports the recent arrival of Melastomataceae in Africa and Madagascar. Amer. J. Bot. 91(9): 1427-1435.

Wurdack, J.J. 1973. Melastomataceae. In: Lasser, T. (ed.), Flora de Venezuela 8: 1-819.

Wurdack, J.J. 1980. Melastomataceae. In: Harling, G. & Sparre, B. (eds), Flora of Ecuador 13: 1-406. Göteborg, Sweden.

Wurdack, J.J. & Renner, S. 1993. Melastomatoideae. In: A.R.A. Görts-Van Rijn (ed.), Flora of the Guianas, Ser. A, 99. Melastomataceae. Koeltz, Koenigstein.

Melastomataceae Juss. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Gen. Pl. [Jussieu] 328. 1789 [4 Aug 1789] (1789)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016)

  • Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible

    ColPlantA 2021. Published on the Internet at

  • Flora Zambesiaca

    Flora Zambesiaca

  • Flora of Tropical East Africa

    Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Flora of West Tropical Africa

    Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • Interactive Key to Seed Plants of Malesia and Indo-China

    The Malesian Key Group (2010) Interactive Key to Seed Plants of Malesia and Indo-China (Version 2.0, 28 Jul 2010) The Nationaal Herbarium Nederland Leiden and The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Kew Science Photographs

    Copyright applied to individual images

  • Neotropikey

    Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.