The fruit which would give us the black mouth or lips is the Kamunting. Its flowers are beautiful as shown by this photo below:
Kamunting is found all over Sarawak and could probably be the first wild flowers many children would get to know and "eat". Called the Malayan Rhododendron or senduduk (kamunting to the Ibans) it grows practically every where. The flowers are usually purple but there are white or blue ones. A political detention place in Perak(Malaysia) is named after this plant.It has become one of the most feared detention centres in Asia!
Many of my Malay friends cook (boil) the leaves or even eat them raw to help ease diarrhea and dysentery.
A paste made from its young leaves and stem is often used as a kampong cure for open sores and in the past as a wash for open wounds from small pox (we are very lucky that small pox is a thing in history). A very popular use of the paste is for curing piles.
The scientific name for the plant is Melastoma candidum. If you come across a white senduduk you are lucky as it is prized by local bomohs as a cure for sicknesses they can identify.
Like most wild flowers the life span of this Malayan Rhododendron is only one day. The flowers open at sunrise and by sunset the petals fall off or close up.
My friend Ann also remembers how she loved playing with the black seeds when she was young in Sibu. In our innocent childhood we played freely in our neighbourhood (there was no fear of kidnapping or child abuse) and we would eat the seeds which would stain our lips and tongue black. We would run up to our elders and frighten them. But of course they too had their fun with these seeds. Sometimes these rather tasty and soft fruits/ seeds would keep many poor children from hunger!
I have just learned that the word melastoma is Greek for "black mouth”.
Birds of course love the seed and you often see burong pipit and other smaller birds sitting on these lovely bushes which bend easily and gracefully in the wind.The leaves are usually full of holes because caterpillars love them. So one should be careful when trying to touch the plant or shrub. Some plants may be host to a huge family of caterpillars! In fact in Indonesia the leaves are fed to silkworms.
Easily propagated and a great survivor in wasteland this plant often helps to prevent soil erosion.
So one must never sneeze at this lowly plant.