Metrosideros tremuloides

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Metrosideros

Species

tremuloides

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻĀhihi
  • ʻĀhihi kū ma kua
  • ʻĀhihi lehua
  • Kūmakua
  • Lehua ʻāhihi
  • ʻŌhiʻa ʻāhihi

Hawaiian Names

  • Ahihi
  • Ahihi ku ma kua
  • Ahihi lehua
  • Kumakua
  • Lehua ahihi
  • Ohia ahihi

Synonyms

  • Metrosideros polymorpha var. tremuloides
  • Nania tremuloides

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Endemic

Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Small, 2 to 6
  • Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30

Mature Size, Width

Lehua ʻāhihi will grow to about 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide. The trees have a weeping habit or form to them.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Hedges
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Lehua ʻāhihi is a good tree for moist areas. A rich, well drained soil produces the best results. [2] It does not appear to any more difficult to grow than ʻōhiʻa (M. polymorpha, M. macropus) and can grow at near sea level locations. Provide full and perhaps a little more watering than some other Metrosideros spp. in cultivation and you will be rewarded with a very floriferous, which means it flowers a lot, shrub or tree. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Lehua ʻāhihi are sensitive to root disturbance. A few planting guidelines can help: Dig a larger planting hole than the root ball, perhaps as much as twice as large. Put good drainage material such as black or red cinder in the bottom. When planting lehua ʻāhihi never splay out the root ball but gently place in hole as is. Nor should lehua ʻāhihi be planted too deep. Soil should never cover the surface area around trunk base. Better to err on the side of planting too high than too low. Water soil thoroughly. A final watering of B-vitamin solution will help to alleviate stress and encourage new root growth. For small plants water everyday until established; larger plants every two or three days should suffice. New signs of liko, new growth, is a key to a successful planting. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Showy

Flower Colors

  • Red

Additional Flower Color Information

The flowers are always bright red but does not have the dramatic pom-pom form as does ʻōhiʻa (M. polymorpha). Rather, the flowers of lehua ʻāhihi are arranged like thinly bristled paint brushes.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

The small leaves are charcterized by bright red stems and leaf petioles, the part that connects the leaf to the stems.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Caterpillars can be detructive to new growth (liko). Black twig borer can be a serious problem. Cut off infected material well below the dead area, wrap securely in a plastic bag and dispose of or completely destroy right away. Whiteflies can infest ʻōhiʻa as well.

ʻŌhiʻa is susceptible to attacks by the bright yellow ʻōhiʻa, or guava, rust (Puccinia psidii) especially in wet environments or during the rainy season. This aggressive rust can be a serious problem if not taken care of in a timely manner. At the first sign of ʻōhiʻa rust, infected material can be carefully trimmed off, bagged securely, and disposed of. One untested suggestion is to put cut pieces in a bottle with a small amount of alcohol before disposing. Then, the plant and any others, including relatives (Eugenia spp., Syzygium spp.), in the area should be treated with a fungicide immediately. [6]

Never add trimmings damaged by ʻōhiʻa rust or black twig borer to a compost pile. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

leaf Growth Requirements

Fertilizer

Apply 13-13-13 slow release fertilize every six months. Foliar feeding in early morning with a water-soluble or an organic fertilizer (e.g. kelp or fish emulsion) at one-third to one-fourth the recommended strength every other month has proved beneficial.

Water Requirements

  • Moist

Additional Water Information

Lehua ʻāhihi does well with moderate amounts of water. Mulching helps to retain moisture in hot open areas.

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Tolerances

  • Wind

Soils

  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Oʻahu

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, Greater than 100 (Wet)

Habitat

  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

ʻĀhihi is endemic to Oʻahu in the Koʻolau and Waiʻanae Mts. in mesic to wet forests. These small trees are fairly common within its range on steep slopes from 410 to almost 2300 feet.

Metrosideros tremuloides occurs along the entire length of the Ko`olau Mountains, but in the Waiʻanae Mountains it is restricted to the northern end of the mountain range. In some areas, especially on steep slopes exposed to the trade winds, it is the dominant tree species. [Joel Lau, Botanist]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻŌhiʻa (Metrosideros spp.) belong to the Myrtle family or Myrtaceae with a current figure at over 5,650 species. [5]

Other non-native relatives, many naturalized in Hawaii, are numerous and include myrtle, tea tree, strawberry guava or waiawī ʻulaʻula, pineapple guava or kuawa, allspice, eucalyptus, melaleuca or paper bark, bottlebrush (Callistemon), and Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora)--to name a few. Some of these have become seriously invasives displacing large tracts of native forests with a monoscape of a single species. An extreme example of this is the highly invasive strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum) where little vegetation can grow beneath its dense canopy.

Native Metrosideros include five endemic species: Lehua ʻāhihi or ʻāhihi (M. tremuloides), lehua papa (M. rugosa), and three known by the name ʻōhiʻa (M. polymorpha, M. macropus and M. waialealae). But it is the species polymorpha that is by far the most common and widest ranging ʻōhiʻa in the islands.

Other native Myrtaceae members include the indigenous Beach cherry or nīoi (Eugenia reinwardtiana), and two endemics: the endangered Koʻolau eugenia or nīoi (Eugenia koolauensis), and the fairly common ʻŌhiʻa hā (Syzygium sandwicensis).

Etymology

The generic name Metrosideros is derived from the Greek metra, heartwood, and sideron, iron, referring to the very hard wood of these plants.

The specific epithet tremuloides means to tremble or to quake in reference to the leaves trembling in the wind.

Background Information

This species is unique among Metrosideros spp. by its characteristically small leaves with bright red petioles (portion from stem to leaf) and overall weeping habit.

Early Hawaiian Use

Early Hawaiians used the flowers for lei. [1,7] Lehua ʻāhihi were abundant in the Nuʻuanu pali area and was highly desirable for lei. [3,5]

Modern Use

The flowers are used in lei making today as they were among the early Hawaiians. [1,4]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 77.

[2] "Small Trees for Tropical Landscape" by Fred D. Rauch & Paul R. Weissich, page 78.

[3] "Hawaiian Antiquities and Folk Lore" by Abraham Fornander, page 390.

[4] "Growing Plants for Hawaiian Lei" by College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), page 34.

[5] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, page 63.

[6] "Hawaii Forest Disease and Pests" http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/forestry/disease/index.html [Accessed 2/4/11; updated on 4/28/10]

[7] "Ethnobotany of Hawaii" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 146.

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