Alien plant appeared in Croatian garden

LIPA lipa at
Sun Sep 6 13:41:58 EST 1998

Please help me solve a riddle.
An unknown plant has grown in the garden of
my friends in a village in Croatia, north of the
river Sava, in a low-hill area at the outskirts
of the Pannonian plain.
The man is extremely puzzled and eager to know
what the plant is, because he has lived in the
country for 70 years, most of the time farming
the land, and he has never seen anything like
it, nor has anybody else, including me.
If anyone can direct me to some Internet site
where people who know these things abide,
I would be most grateful.

The plant has grown some 3 meters high,
bush-like (5 stems growing out of one root).
The bark is clearly purple, covered with whitish
film which can easily be removed revealing
a shiny smooth purple rind.
The leaves are single, symmetrical, somewhat
like plum-tree leaves, but much larger. They grow
larger in time, so although the leaves at the ends
of the branches are tiny, the ones closer to the
ground are up to 30 cm long.
Now, in early September, there are flowers,
green fruits and ripe fruits, all at the same time.
The flower is a 10 cm long cluster, with small
white petals. Each flower has its own little stem,
but there seem to be three directions in which
they go, so the whole cluster is piston-like.
The fruit is very much like a black-berry, when
it ripens, but while it is green, it shows clear
sliced division (like a tiny skinned orange).
The ripe fruit is pitch black, round and smooth,
while the stem turns ever more purple as the fruit ripens.

The plant first appeared last spring, and in the
autumn the leaves turned yellow and fell. Over
the winter, the plant was frozen altogether,
but this spring it turned out that the root was
OK, and there's the bush, nice and healthy
with uncanny purple bark.

Does anybody know what this is and where its
natural habitat is? Are the berries good to eat
or poisonous? Is the plant used in any way, for
food, medicine or anything?

Thank you very much for your attention.

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