Miconia calvescens – Velvet Tree
Other Common Names: Miconia, Purple Plague, Bush Currant, Green Cancer
Miconia calvescens is an evergreen, flowering plant that is native to Mexico, as well as in Central and South America. It belongs to the Melastomataceae family and is commonly known as Bush Currant, Miconia, Purple Plague, Green Cancer, or Velvet Tree.
Velvet trees can grow up to 50 feet or 15 meters tall, but normally, they grow shorter than that. They also have large leaves, which can grow up to 3 feet or 1 meter long. It is also considered as an ornamental plant by some because of its attractive purple and green leaves with prominent white veins.
Flowers bloom and bear fruits several times a year. Numerous white and light pink flower clusters grow in large panicles at the branch tips. They emit a pleasant sweet scent, but are very short lived as they only last for 12 to 24 hours after opening.
The dark purple colored fruits are tiny, only reaching about half a centimeter in diameter, but are packed with 120 to 230 minute seeds. They taste sweet, which is why they attract a lot of birds and other animals which help disperse the seeds. This is also the reason why the Velvet Tree is considered as the worst invasive plant in Hawaii.
Velvet Trees are known for their heavy seed production, as a young tree can produce 200,000 seeds during its fruiting season. The seeds can even lie dormant in the soil for more than 10 years and they can still undergo germination once the sun shines through. With that, they can easily invade spots and are considered as a threat as they can destroy the entire ecosystem.