The native distribution of Ardisia elliptica is not entirely certain, and the original range of the species has variously included India, Sri Lanka, China Taiwan, Malaya, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines (Tomlinson 1986, Langland and Burks 1998, Yuen-Po 1999).The plant is an introduced exotic that now occurs in the East Indies and Okinawa, Japan, and has become naturalized in south Florida, Hawaii, and the Caribbean (Langland and Burks 1998, Francis undated). Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council collection records indicate that Ardisia elliptica is present in the southern half of the India River Lagoon watershed in St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach counties. Wunderlin et al. (1995) also indicate the plant is present in Brevard County, based on vouchered specimens. Brevard is the northernmost county from which the plant has been collected.
Reproduction in Ardisia elliptica is sexual and the species flowers and fruits sporadically throughout the year in south Florida (Long and Lakela 1971, Langeland and Burks 1998). Individuals attain sexual maturity in 2-4 years. Flowers are insect-pollinated Individual plants possess both male and female flowers and there is a high degree of autogamy or self-fertilization (Pascarella 1997).Fruit production is moderate, up to 400 fruits on large adults in bright forested sites (ISSG), but year-round production likely increases the overall reproductive capacity of individuals.
Propagules remain viable after gut passage and seed dispersal has been reported as primarily through frugiverous birds (Langeland and Burks 1998, Francis undated), particularly the gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) in Florida. However, recent studies examining the spread of Ardisia elliptica in Everglades national Park suggest that long-distance dispersal by raccoons (Procyon lotor), although less frequent than bird dispersal, may be of primary importance in determining invasion rates (Horvitz and Koop 2005, Koop and Horvitz 2006).Seeds reportedly do not remain viable for more than 6 months (ISSG). Experimental evidence suggests germination rates are high; 75% of seeds planted in commercial potting mix with no pretreatment germinated 42-81 days after sowing. Seedlings may grow up to 1 m in the first year, but 0.25 to 0.5 m/year is a more typical rate for both seedlings and established shrubs (Francis undated).
A large, evergreen, shurb, 1.5-4 m tall. Leaves 10-20 cm long, oblanceolate to obovate, entire, acute to shortly acuminate, shortly stalked. Flowers 1.5-2 cm across, pink or pinkish-white, in axillary, corymbose racemes, shorter than the leaves. Corolla lobes spreading, broad, tube very short. Fruit 7-13 mm in diameter, depressed-globose, black with pink juice when ripe, tipped by style base, supported on persistent calyx.
Shoebutton ardesia, Ardisia elliptica, is a tropical shrub or small tree not native to Florida but now occurring as an invasive species in the southern half of the state. The typical growth form in undamaged plants is a single, smooth stem that gives rise to short, perpendicular branches. Plants may send up additional stems from the rootstock, particularly after damage. Individuals produce strong taproots that produce highly branched lateral roots.The leaves are alternate, oblong to oval, pointed at the tips, smooth and leathery/rubbery, 8-20 cm long, pink to reddish in young plants and turning dark green with age. Star-shaped flowers, to 13 mm wide with pale violet-colored petals occur in axillary clusters. Fruits are round, berry-like drupes, 6 mm wide that are white when young and turning red and then dark purple to black when ripe, and capable of staining fingers. The flesh of the ripe fruit is juicy when broken and white in color, and each fruit contains a single seed (Langland and Burks 1998, Francis undated, ISSG).
Shrubs or trees to 6 m tall, glabrous. Branchlets prominently angular, 5-7 mm in diam. Petiole canaliculate, 1-2 cm; leaf blade elliptic or oblanceolate, 12-20 × 4-7 cm, papery, conspicuously black punctate and punctate-lineate abaxially, not prominently punctate adaxially, base cuneate or narrowly decurrent on petiole, margin subrevolute, entire, apex acute; lateral veins ca. 20 on each side of midrib, raised on both surfaces, marginal vein absent. Inflorescences at bases of new shoots, paniculate with racemose or rarely corymbose branches, 3-8 cm. Flowers leathery, pink, ca. 1 cm. Sepals broadly ovate to reniform, ca. 3 mm, densely black punctate, base subauriculate, margin subentire or crenulate, ciliate, scarious, apex rounded. Petals nearly free; lobes broadly ovate, ca. 9 mm, punctate, margin entire, hyaline, apex obtuse or acute. Stamens subequalling petals; filaments ca. 1/4 anther length; anthers linear-lanceolate, densely punctate dorsally, longitudinally dehiscent, apex acute. Pistil subequalling petals; ovary globose, densely punctate; ovules numerous, multiseriate. Fruit purplish red or blackish, oblate, 7-9 mm in diam., densely black punctate. Fl. Feb-Mar, fr. Aug-Nov. 2n = 46.