Shoebutton: Ardisia elliptica


Shoebutton_berries.jpgShoebutton can be distinguished by its 1) mauve-tinged flowers, 2) reddish-pink new foliage, and 3) flower and fruit clusters hanging from leaf axils along the branches, rather than at the ends of the branches.

Look at first

  • tall shrub, small tree
  • new foliage at stem tips reddish-pink
  • black berries hanging in clusters at leaf axils

Shoebutton may be easily confused with the desirable native marble-berry (Ardisia escallonioides). They grow in similar habitats and have similar large evergreen leaves, and both produce black fruits.  However, the native species has white flower clusters, and they occur only at the stem tips (see other side).

Shoebutton forest
leaves Leaves: evergreen, alternate on stem; somewhat large, to 8 in. long, thick, waxy, (leathery), somewhat folded; oblongobovate or elliptical-oblong, margins entire (smooth); new leaves at stem tips reddish-pink
stems Stems: woody, smooth, gray
flowers Flowers: ymes (clusters) of mauve colored flowers, drooping on stalks, with clusters arising from leaf axils (where leaf meets the stem); flowers  starshaped, 2 inches wide, with five petals each
fruit Fruit: fleshy, shiny black to dark purple drupes, relatively large, one-seeded


The invasive nonnative shoebutton has escaped from cultivation and is spreading in the hammocks and wetlands of southern Florida, forming dense patches that crowd out native plants. Much of Tree Tops Park in Ft. Lauderdale is a virtual monospecific stand of large, tall shoebutton bushes.

Shoebutton stemDistribution

Native to Asia, naturalized in Hawaii and the Caribbean islands as well as in Florida.


Shoebutton produces flowers and fruits year round. Seed dispersment aided by bird consumption of these fruits and the berries are edible.

Shoebutton populations are altering and degrading native plant communities. There are numerous non-invasive plant alternatives available for plant cultivation in Florida.

Additional Information:

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Shoebutton (Ardisia elliptica)

Image Credit: Sandra Murphy-Pak, Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida.

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