Scientific Name: Miconia calvescens
Common Names: Velvet Tree, Miconia, Purple Plague, Green Cancer, Bush Currant
Duration: Perennial, Evergreen
Growth Habit: Tree, Shrub
Hawaii Native Status: Introduced. This naturalized ornamental garden plant is native to tropical America.
Flower Color: Inconspicuous (white, tan, or pink)
Height: Up to 50 feet (15 m) tall, but often half that or less
Description: The tiny flowers are in upright panicles at the branch tips. The flowers are followed by small, round, blue-purple fruits that are eaten by birds. The distinctive leaves have 3 lighter-colored main veins, a net of smaller horizontal veins, and are dark green above, maroon to purple velvet-colored below, opposite, oval in shape, and up to 3 feet (0.9 m) long. The plants are branched, woody shrubs to medium-sized trees here.
Although attractive, this villain of a plant is extremely invasive and threatens native Hawaiian forests. It has already caused serious environmental damage on Tahiti where vast stands of it carpet whole hillsides, shading out all other plants and reducing biodiversity. Velvet Tree has shallow roots, so hills covered with this plant are vulnerable to landslides. Here in Hawaii, Velvet Tree grows in sunny to shady, moist to mesic (moderately wet) forests from sea level to 5000 feet (1524 m) in elevation.
Legal Status – Hawaii State-listed Noxious Weed
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family: Melastomataceae – Melastome family
Genus: Miconia Ruiz & Pav. – johnnyberry
Species: Miconia calvescens DC. – velvet tree