Invades the understory of native pinelands in Florida, forming dense monoculture thickets that displace native flora and fauna through overcrowding and competition. Has the potential to alter the natural fire regimes of invaded areas. Listed as a category I invasive species by Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) and as Noxious weed by Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.
Evergreen shrub to 2 m (6 ft) tall, with dense, short, soft hairs on young stems. Leaves opposite, simple, entire, elliptic-oval, to 7 cm (3 in) long, glossy green above, densely soft-hairy below (tomentose), with 3 main veins from blade base. Flowers rose-pink, to 2.5 cm (1 in) across, in one- to few-flowered clusters at leaf axils; 5 sepals, hairy; 5 petals; many stamens, with pink filaments. Fruit a globose, few-seeded berry to 1.3 cm (0.5 in) across, dark purple, with sweet, aromatic flesh.
Resembles an azalea or camellia, although it is in a different family. Downy rose myrtle is in the same family as stoppers (Eugenia spp.) and its foliage resembles them somewhat.
Introduced prior to 1924 for ornament and fruit. Some humans reportedly harvest the sweet, blueberry-like fruit to make jam.
Vouchered herbarium specimens have been collected in Charlotte, DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Lee, Collier, Orange, Brevard, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach and Pasco Counties.
Seedlings can be manually removed. Mature shrubs may be removed using a chainsaw or brush cutter.