Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) at Dairy Farm Nature Park

This shrub with eye-catching purple flowers is a common sight along the open roadsides where there is plenty of sunlight. She's known as the Singapore Rhododendron, though funnily, she's neither endemic to Singapore nor a true Rhododendron. Not as commonly spotted, there are some individuals with white instead of purple flowers. 
There are a number of anecdotal stories online of people using the fruits and leaves of this plant to treat different ailments. People who grew up in the "kampung" (Malay village) will know that the leaves can be boiled or eaten raw to treat diarrhea and dysentery, or pounded down into a paste to apply to open wounds. Kids would eat the fruits as well for fun, and they are supposed to taste slightly sweet, though they didn't taste like much when we tried. Probably the high sugar content food we are used to today.
The violet fruit "cups" burst open to reveal numerous white seeds held together by black pulp inside. Some of the unopened fruits had bore holes on them, signs of insects tunneling through the skin to get to the precious sugars inside.
We found some literature on how the fruits were traditionally used to make black and red dyes. Instead, we got a nice Prussian blue. Pigments from plants can differ depending on the processing technique used and the environmental conditions of the land where the plant was grown. The texture of the ink was also grainy due to the seeds present in the mixture. Most artists would prefer a smoother ink, but we kind of enjoyed the natural patterns the seeds created along with the brush strokes. The brown stripes were where we applied the iron mordant.
We will share more artwork created with this Singapore Rhododendron ink in our Gallery later on.
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