Candleberry myrtle

Morella faya (formerly Myrica faya)

M. faya is an evergreen tree growing up to 12 m tall in its native range, but is usually much smaller where introduced, e.g. no more than 8 m tall in Hawaii and in windy and exposed sites it may only reach a height of 2-3 m.

Common names 
Also known as: candleberry myrth, fire tree,
Flowering time 
M. faya is native to the Macaronesian islands of the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands but not Cape Verde. It is also found on mainland Portugal but it is unclear whether the species is native there or was introduced
State declaration 
Category 1
Council declaration 
As per State Declaration
Known distribution 

The Macaronesian endemic M. faya has so far proved to be invasive only in the Hawaiian islands although is also cultivated in Florida (USA), Queensland (Australia) and New Zealand.


In its native range, M. faya is a frequent component of forest canopies and in many stands it is co-dominant, whereas it is generally absent from the shrub layer. In open areas, M. faya is a pioneer species on old lava flows and spreads readily into pasture lands. It is also found on sea cliffs, rocky hillsides and along roadsides. Habitats invaded in Hawaii reflect those occupied by the species in its native range. However, it does not readily invade closed, late-successional native forests.


The fire tree is an evergreen shrub or small tree that usually grows around 8 metres tall.

M. faya has many deleterious impacts but it primarily changes ecosystem function by altering the nitrogen cycle, increasing nitrogen availability through nitrogen fixation. It also forms monospecific stands that have virtually no understorey and its litter inhibits germination and seedling establishment

Stem and leaves 

It is often multi-stemmed and branches have reddish peltate hairs. The leaves are alternate. The leaves are usually a dark, glossy green, 4–11 cm long and 1–3 cm broad, with an entire margin and a bluntly pointed apex.

Flowers and fruits 

Flowers are unisexual and generally born on separate trees. Each inflorescence is a spike or catkin bearing yellow flowers with no perianth. These are borne among leaves of the current year's growth. The fruit is a slightly fleshy edible drupe about 6 mm in diameter and dark red or blackish when mature, containing 1-5 seeds.

Reproduction and dispersal 

The seeds are bird-dispersed in its native range, and in Hawaii they are dispersed by birds and feral pigs. It is a prolific seed producer with the seeds also remaining viable in the soil for a long period of time.