Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

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Morella faya
(Ait.) Wilbur, Myricaceae
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Present on Pacific Islands?  yes

Primarily a threat at high elevations?  no

Risk assessment results:  High risk, score: 17 (Go to the risk assessment)

Other Latin names:  Myrica faya Ait.

Common name(s): [more details]

English: candleberry myrtle, fayatree, firebush, firetree

Habit:  tree

Description:  "Evergreen shrubs or small trees up to 8 m tall; branches with reddish peltate hairs.  Leaves coriaceous, oblanceolate, 4-11 cm long, 1-2.5 cm wide, glabrous, glandular dots inconspicuous, margins somewhat revolute, remotely serrulate or serrate in upper , apex rounded to acute.  Flowers in usually branched catkins borne among leaves of the current year's growth.  Fruit drupaceous, dark red or blackish when mature, slightly fleshy"  (Wagner et al., 1999; p. 931).

Habitat/ecology:  This rapidly growing, noxious, evergreen tree, reaching up to 15 m in height, invades mesic and wet habitats where it forms dense, monotypic stands. The leaves are suspected of some allelopathic activity. It has the ability to fix nitrogen and can grow under a closed forest canopy, taking advantage of any disturbance to grow rapidly.  In Hawai‘i, "naturalized and a serious pest, becoming dominant in many areas, occurring in mesic to wet forest, 150-1,310 m" (Wagner et al., 1999; p. 931).

Although it often invades disturbed areas, it can compete successfully with native vegetation.  It seems to be able to adapt to a wide range of habitats with soils ranging from recent thin ash over lava to deep well-developed silty clay loam soil.  It is relatively shade-intolerant.  It forms a symbiotic association with a nitrogen-fixing actinomycete, Frankia, and is altering primary successional ecosystems in Hawaii by increasing the amount and availability of fixed nitrogen (Cronk & Fuller, 2001; p. 97).

"Forms dense stands under which nothing grows.  Fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere; this ability favors plant species capable of responding to the added nitrogen over natives unable to do so"  (Motooka et al., 2003).

Propagation:  Prolific seed producer. The fruit is dispersed by alien and native frugivorous birds and feral pigs. The seed remains viable in the soil for a long period.

Native range:  Azores, Madeira Islands and Canary Islands; also cultivated (GRIN).

Presence:

Pacific
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Hawai‘i (Big) Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (p. 931)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Kaua‘i Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (p. 931)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Lāna‘i Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (p. 931)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Maui Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (p. 931)
East Maui.
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Maui Island introduced
invasive
Oppenheimer, Hank L./Meidell, J. Scott/Bartlett, R. T. (1999) (p. 9)
West Maui. Voucher cited: Oppenheimer H69802 (BISH)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
O‘ahu Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. (1999) (p. 931)
Pacific Rim
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Australia
Australia (continental)
Australia (continental) introduced
cultivated
Csurhes, S./Edwards, R. (1998) (pp. 49-50)
Cultivated specimens only.

Comments:  Wrongly cited by Owen, 1997, as being naturalized in the Chatham Islands and cultivated elsewhere in New Zealand (Clayson Howell, Department of Conservation, New Zealand, per pers. com. from Heather Taylor 26 July 2011).

Control: 

Physical:  "Goats will control fayatree (An Peischel)"  (Motooka et al., 2003).

Chemical:  Summaries of herbicide trials for pasture, range and non-cropland weed control--1999

"Saplings susceptible to foliar applications of triclopyr. Susceptible to cut-stump treatments of imazapyr 9% product in water, 10% triclopyr amine product, 100% glyphosate; metsulfuron (concentration not disclosed) and to frill application of 50% triclopyr amine product (HAVO). Trees and saplings susceptible to cut surface applications of picloram, triclopyr and glyphosate, and tolerant of dicamba. Saplings susceptible to basal bark applications of triclopyr. Soil applied hexazinone, tebuthiuron ineffective" (Motooka et al., 2003).

Biological:  "Leaf-spotting fungus Septoria myricae being evaluated at HAVO"  (Motooka et al., 2003).  In Hawai‘i, "Caloptilia nr. schinella (Lepidoptera, Gracillaridae) from the Azores and Madeira was released in 1991. It is established but has had no demonstrable effect.  A Septoria leaf spot fungus did cause premature leaf fall, but we were unable to obtain fertile material. A similar species, Septoria hodgesii Gardner (Deuteromycetes, Dothideaceae), from M. cerifera L. in the eastern US was released at Volcano, Hawai‘i Island in 1998, but with no noticeable impact to date. We have a single species in quarantine from Madeira, Phyllonorycter myricae Deschka (Lepidoptera, Gracillaridae) that is may be suitable for release"  (Smith et al., 2002; pp. 94-95).

"Since 1956 various biological control agents--including two lepidopterans and a fungus--have been introduced to Hawaii to control Morella faya, with little effect. The naturalized, non-specific pathogenic fungus Botrytis cinerea causes fruit rot and diminishes fire tree populations in Volcano (Big Island). Leaf yellowing caused by the two-spotted leaf hopper (Sophonia rufostachia)--which was accidentally introduced to Hawaii--reduces the tree's vigor"  (Biological control in Hawai‘i).


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This page was created on 1 JAN 1999 and was last updated on 15 AUG 2013.