East Africa to India, Southeast Asia, Australia, Pacific Islands
Appears to be supplanting native coastal vegetation in some Florida areas (Nellis 1994). Has begun to displace rare native beach plants, such as the inkberry, Scaevola plumieri, and the Florida-endangered sea lavender, Tournefortia gnaphalodes (L.) R. Br. Ex Roem. & Schult., (J. Duquesnel, Florida Park Service, 1995 pers. comm.)
Large, bushy shrub to 5 m (16 ft) tall, often forming dense hemispherical mounds. Leaves simple, closely alternate, crowded at stem tips; blades thick, shiny green, wider near tips, to 21 cm (8.3 in) long, glabrous to hairy on both sides, margins revolute, light green becoming yellow with age; leaf axils with tufts of pale hairs. Flowers white to pale lilac, several in short clusters at leaf axils; 5 petals, partially fused, split to base on upper side so that petal lobes spread fanlike into a lower lip. Fruit a fleshy, subspherical drupe, green then white, 8-12 mm (0.3-0.5 in) long, with sepal lobes persistent at tip. (Cherry & Langeland 2008).
Often confused with the threatened Florida native half-flower, or inkberry, S. plumieri (L.) Vahl, but its leaves are shorter (to 10 cm, or 4 in, long), more succulent, with margins entire. Also, its mature fruit is black, not white (Cherry & Langeland 2008).
Apparently a recent introduction (Thieret and Brandenburg 1986), probably from Hawaii. Not mentioned in earlier works on Florida, but noted by Bailey and Bailey (1976) as occasionally planted in south Florida. Reported as escaped from cultivation in Lee County in 1982 (Wunderlin). Promoted in the early 1980s for use in beach stabilization projects—now discouraged (P. Flood, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 1995 pers. comm.). Has escaped and become established on many south Florida beach dunes, coastal berms, coastal rock barrens, coastal strands, along saline shores, and in coastal hammocks (Nelson 1996).
Reported from parks and preserves in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Martin, Collier, Lee, and Sarasota counties (FLEPPC 2002).
Manual: hand pull, at least fruit, from site whenever possible. Basal bark: 10% Garlon® 4. Cut stump: 50% Garlon® 3A or 10% Garlon® 4. Foliar: (monocultures) 4$ Garlon® 4 (Langeland, Ferrell, and Sellers 2011).