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).

Additional information:
Excerpt from the book "Weeds of Hawaii‘s Pastures and Natural Areas; An Identification and Management Guide" (Motooka et al., 2003). (PDF format).
Report (PDF format) from US Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Haleakala Field Station, Hawaii "Plants of Hawaii".
Myrica faya factsheet from the Plant Conservation Alliance, Alien Plant Working Group.
Fact sheet from Woody Plant Ecology web site.
Fact sheet from "Common forest trees of Hawaii" (PDF format).
Information from the Global Invasive Species Database.
Information sheet from Weedbusters New Zealand.

Additional online information about Morella faya is available from the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project (HEAR).

Information about Morella faya as a weed (worldwide references) may be available from the Global Compendium of Weeds (GCW).

Taxonomic information about Morella faya may be available from the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).

References:

Cronk, Q. C. B./Fuller, J. L. 2001. Plant invaders. Earthscan Publications, Ltd., London. 241 pp.

Csurhes, S./Edwards, R. 1998. Potential environmental weeds in Australia: Candidate species for preventative control. Canberra, Australia. Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia. 208 pp.

Cuddihy, Linda W./Santos, Gregory L./Stone, Charles P. 1991. Control of fire tree (Myrica faya Aiton) with herbicides in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawai‘i, Department of Botany. Technical Report 82.

Little, Elbert L./Skolmen, Roger G. 1989. Common forest trees of Hawaii (native and introduced). USDA Agriculture Handbook 679. Washington, D.C. 377 pp. + plates.

Lutzow-Felling, Candace J./Gardner, Donald E./Markin, George P./Smith, Clifford W. 1995. Myrica faya: Review of the biology, ecology, distribution, and control, including an annotated bibliography. Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawai‘i, Department of Botany. Technical Report 94.

Markin, George P. 1990. Insect survey or potential biological control agents of Myrica faya in the Azores and Madeira Islands. Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawai‘i, Department of Botany. Technical Report 75.

Motooka, Philip/Castro, Luisa/Nelson, Duane/Nagai, Guy/Ching, Lincoln. 2003. Weeds of Hawaii‘s Pastures and Natural Areas; An Identification and Management Guide. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa. 184 pp.

Motooka, Philip/Ching, Lincoln/Nagai, Guy. 2002. Herbicidal Weed Control Methods for Pasture and Natural Areas of Hawaii. Cooperative Extension Service, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawai‘i. CTAHR free publication WC-8.

Oppenheimer, Hank L./Meidell, J. Scott/Bartlett, R. T. 1999. New plant records for Maui and Moloka‘i. In: Evenhuis, Neal L. and Eldredge, Lucius G., eds. Records of the Hawaii Biological Survey for 1998. Part 2: Notes. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers. 59:7-11.

Owen, S. J. 1997. Ecological weeds on conservation land in New Zealand: A database. Working draft. Wellington, New Zealand. Department of Conservation.

Smith, Clifford W./ Denslow, Julie/ Hight, Stephen. 2002. Proceedings of workshop on biological control of native ecosystems in Hawai‘i. Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit (University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany) Technical Report 129. 122 pages.

U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. 2013. National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online searchable database.

Wagner, Warren L./Herbst, Derral R./Sohmer, S. H. 1999. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawaii. Revised edition. Bernice P. Bishop Museum special publication. University of Hawai‘i Press/Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu. 1919 pp. (two volumes).


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