All About Albizia (Falcataria moluccana)

posted in: Forests, Invasives, July 2013 | 0

Some questions and answers about albizia in Hawai`i.

What is albizia’s native range? It is native to the Moluccas, New Guinea, New Britain, and the Solomon Islands.

When did it arrive in Hawai`i? It was brought to the islands in 1917 by noted Hawaiian botanist Joseph Rock as one of several species that were intended to reforest areas of Hawai`i that had been denuded by livestock, logging, and other human activities.

How many trees were planted? From the early part of the 1900s to the middle of the century, territorial foresters planted approximately 140,000 albizia trees on all islands.

How fast can it grow? Albizia is considered the fastest-growing tree species in the world, capable of growing 2.5 centimeters (more than an inch) a day. That translates to nearly a yard a month. Rock praised the tree for its rapid growth, noting that “trees nine years old had reached a height of over a hundred feet, a rapidity of growth almost unbelievable.”

How long does it live? Rock believed the tree to be short-lived, but, “as it is an abundant seeder, there should always be a good stand of this tree present.” In fact, trees planted by Rock nearly a century ago are still going strong on the grounds of the Lyon Arboretum.

What is its effect on native forests? Disastrous. `Ohi`a, perhaps the single most important plant in any Hawaiian forest, dies out in the presence of albizia. (For details, see “Albizia Makes Inroads in Native Forests of Puna,” in the February 2003 Environment Hawai`i.) The prodigious amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus that albizia adds to the forest floor facilitates the growth of other invasive species as well.

(Thanks to Flint Hughes’ testimony on SR 41 for much of the information in this box.)

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