Koster's Curse
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Koster's Curse
P Naturalized Photo: Dinesh Valke
Common name: Koster's Curse, Soap bush
Botanical name: Clidemia hirta    Family: Melastomataceae (Melastome family)
Synonyms: Melastoma elegans, Melastoma hirtum

Koster's Curse is a densely-branched perennial shrub up to 5 m tall but normally between 0.5 and 3 m. In windy areas, it is scrambling and is less than 1 m tall. The oppositely arranged leaves are up to 15 cm long and 8 cm wide. They have prominent veins and are dark green. Most plant parts, including stems, leaves and calyx, are hairy. The flowers, 0.5-1 cm across, have white or pink petals and are borne on short flower-stalks in cymes of 6-20 flowers in leaf-axils or at branch-ends. The berries are borne in clusters and turn from green to blue-black or deep purple as they mature. "Koster's curse" is a commonly used name in places where the plant grows as a noxious weed, such as Hawaii. Koster was the man who between 1880 and 1886 accidentally introduced seeds of C. hirta to Fiji in coffee nursery stock, where its problematic nature was first noticed around 1920. It is a native of South America, naturalised in Paleotropics.

Identification credit: Navendu Pagé Photographed in Madikeri, Karnataka.

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