Azores, Madeira, and the Canary islands
An evergreen shrub or small
tree, usually 12-15 feet tall, fire tree can grow to 50 feet in height in
some areas. Stems of fire tree are covered with hairs and its leaves are
2-4 inches long, dark green, shiny, smooth, aromatic, and alternate along
the stem. Male flowers have four stamens (pollen-bearing structures) and
occur in small hanging clusters near the branch tip. Female flowers, also
grouped in small hanging clusters, occur in threes, further from the branch
tip. The prolific and edible fruits of fire tree are small and red to purple
tree poses a serious threat to native plants on young volcanic sites, lowland
forests and shrublands, where it forms dense, single- species stands. On
the island of Hawaii, fire tree forms a dense canopy with an understory devoid
of other plant life. The roots of fire tree manufacture nitrogen, which allows
it to invade recent, nutrient-poor volcanic sites much sooner than native
plants. Invasion by fire tree on these sites prevents typical plant community
succession from occurring.
IN THE UNITED STATES
Fire tree occurs on nearly all of the major Hawaiian
islands (Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Oahu, and Lanai). In the late 1980s, it covered
more than 100,000 acres in the Hawaiian islands and fire tree continues
to expand throughout the islands.
HABITAT IN THE UNITED STATES
adapts to a wide range of habitats and soil types --from thin ash over lava
to deep, well developed, silty-clay or loam soils. It occurs in recent volcanic
cinder deposits and various types of native forest, and is most abundant
on steep slopes, in seasonal montane forests, pastures, and roadsides.
tree was originally brought to Hawaii by immigrants from Portugal in the
late 1800s, most likely as an ornamental plant for its edible fruit, or for
use as firewood. Portuguese laborers made wine from the fire tree fruit.
In the early 1900s, it was sometimes planted in reforestation projects on
the islands of Kauai, Oahu and Hawaii. By 1937, the invasive nature of this
species had been recognized, and the first attempts to eradicate fire tree
took place in 1944.
BIOLOGY & SPREAD
Fire tree propagates
by seed which are produced in small fruits in June. The fruits are readily
eaten by birds which carry the seeds into new areas, enhancing its spread.
Herbicide is the
primary tool used for fire tree. Because exotic birds and feral pigs are
important dispersal agents of fire tree seeds, these animals should be controlled
to limit further spread. Although no host-specific biological control agent
has been identified for control of fire tree, the two-spotted leafhopper
(Sophonia rufostachia) has been reported to kill fire tree on the
island of Hawaii.
USE PESTICIDES WISELY: ALWAYS READ THE ENTIRE PESTICIDE LABEL CAREFULLY, FOLLOW ALL MIXING AND APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS AND WEAR ALL RECOMMENDED PERSONAL PROTECTIVE GEAR AND CLOTHING. CONTACT YOUR STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR ANY ADDITIONAL PESTICIDE USE REQUIREMENTS, RESTRICTIONS OR RECOMMENDATIONS.
NOTICE: MENTION OF PESTICIDE PRODUCTS ON THIS WEB SITE DOES NOT CONSTITUTE ENDORSEMENT OF ANY MATERIAL.
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Forest & Kim Starr, US Geological Survey,
Cronk, Q.C.B. and J. Fuller. 1995. Plant Invaders:
The Threat to Natural Ecosystems. Chapman & Hall: London. World Wide
Fund for Nature.
Swearingen, J. 2009. WeedUS Database of Plants Invading Natural Areas in the United States: Fire Tree (Morella faya). http://www.invasive.org/weedus/subject.html?sub=6053.
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
Vitousek, P.M., L.R. Walker, L.D. Whiteaker,
D. Mueller-Dombois, and P.A. Matson. 1987. Biological invasion by Myrica
faya alters ecosystem development in Hawaii. Science 238:802-804.
Whiteaker, L.D. and D.E. Gardner. 1992. Fire
tree (Myrica faya) distribution in Hawaii. In: Alien plant invasions
in native ecosystems of Hawaii. Stone, C.P., C.W. Smith, and J.T. Tunison,
eds. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Plant Conservation Alliance, Alien Plant Working Group.