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Have you seen Firetree (Morella faya)?
Hawaii Early Detection Network Priority Pest for the islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and the Big Island Hawaii


Rubber vine flower detail
Morella faya fruits
Morella faya roadside
Firetree's red fruits are obvious amongst roadside weeds on the Big Island
Detail of firetree fruits
Detail of firetree fruits
Images: Forest & Kim Starr

Identification: Firetree is a fast growing, quick spreading tree that invades a variety of habitats. Firetree is 3-4 m (12-15 ft) tall, though it can grow to 15 m (50 ft). It has dark green, shiny, smooth surfaced ALTERNATE LEAVES, (2-4 in) long. AROMATIC LEAVES. The tree produces catkin type flowers that hang in clusters. Seeds mature into small red to deep purple purple berries.
Impacts: Firetree is a Hawaii state noxious weed that has invaded patures and wild areas of Maui (upcountry East Maui, see map external link), Hawaii, Kauai, and Oahu, where it creates dense stands. Once established this tree can increase the level of nitrogen in the soil, altering the chemistry of it's habitat making it uninhabitable for native plants. This habitat altering effect is especially marked in young mutrient poot volcanic sites where firetree can prevent the normal progression of native plants.
Dispersal Mechanism: Firetree is native to the Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands, and was first introduced to Hawaii in the 1920's by settlers for use as an ornamental tree, and for it's fruits which were used in wine. It produces numerous seeds (40,000 to 400,000 seeds a year) that are then spread by fruit eating birds and animals such as pigs and rats. If you see this tree anywhere on Molokai- let someone know!

More information about this pest external link


Firetree look-alikes:


Cape pittosporum (Pittosporum viridiflorum):
Cape pittosporum is only known to occur in a few locations on the island of Maui (see map external link), but can be confused with firetree because of its prominent red berries and aromatic leaves. Cape pittosporum light grey bark covered with distinctive dots (lenticels), yellow to green STAR SHAPED FLOWERS 10-12 mm (2/5-1/2 in) wide, and yellow to brown fruit capsules that split open to expose sticky red fruit.

Cape pittosporum, USGS-BRD

Cape pittosporum (Pittosporum viridiflorum)

aalii with fruit
A'ali'i (Dodonaea viscosa)

A'ali'i (Dodonaea viscosa):
The Hawaiian native a'li'i can be confused for firetree from a distance because of the red coloration of its seed pods. Unlike the firetree, the seeds of the a'ali'i are contained in a papery husk that rattle when shaken.

aalii with fruit
A'ali'i seed detail
Last Updated: Monday January 30 2012. If you have any questions about the Hawaii Early Detection Network contact reportapest-maui@lists.hawaii.edu.
Funding and support for this project was made possible by the Hawai'i Invasive Species Council, the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry assistance, and University of Hawai'i-Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit.