India, China, Southeast Asia
Shoebutton ardisia principally grows and is most aggressive in areas of wet soils. It forms dense stands in low areas and intermittent stream bottoms with clay soils, in hammocks, disturbed wetlands, old fields, and tree islands in marshes in Florida, and in mangroves. The species is shade tolerant and usually grows under forest canopies. Seedlings appear in well-established forest understories—disturbance is not required for establishment. Although significant insect herbivory does occur in Florida, it does not appear to inhibit the advance of the species into new habitats. Listed as a Category I invasive species by Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council and as a Noxious Weed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Evergreen, glabrous shrub or small tree up to 5 m (17 ft) in height with smooth stems and new foliage often reddish. Leaves alternate, to 20 cm (8 in) long, oblong to oval, fleshy, leathery, gland-dotted below, with margins entire. Flowers in axillary clusters, star shaped, 13 mm (0.5 in) wide, with mauve-colored petals. Fruit an edible rounded drupe, 6 mm (< 1 in) wide, red turning to black when ripe, with white juicy flesh.
Differs from the native marlberry, Ardisia escallonioides, and native myrsine, Rapanea punctata, by its larger growth habit and conspicuous axillary clusters of mauve flowers.
Introduced before 1900, for ornamental use.
Herbarium specimens of Florida naturalized populations collected from as far north as St. Lucie and Brevard counties on the east coast, Polk County on the central ridge, and Pinellas County on the west coast (Wunderlin et al. 1995).
Do not plant. Remove plant and root system.