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Have you seen Poison devil's tree (Rauvolfia vomitoria)?
Hawaii Early Detection Network Priority Pest for the island of Hawaii
Flowers (left) and fruit (right). The flowers are very small (1-2.2 mm long).
Poison devil's tree produces latex sap from broken stems.
Poison devil's tree can be shrub-like or grow up to 50 ft. tall.
Images: (c) 2009 J. B. Friday
Poison devil's pepper (Rauvolfia vomitoria), aka swizzle stick, is a recent introduction to the state of Hawaii from Africa. This fast growing tree quickly grows more than 30 feet tall with a trunk that is 1 foot in diameter. It has leaves that are long and skinny with an undulating margin and pointed tip. The leaves are up to 9.4 inches long and grow in groups of 3-5 leaflets in a whorled arrangement around the stem. Minute flowers (1 mm long) are cream colored and sweet smelling. Clusters of fruits are red-orange and fleshy. Young branches and stems contain latex.
Impacts: Poison devil's pepper's only known in Hawaii is one area of North Kohala on Big Island where it is quickly spreading into both pastures and closed-canopy forest areas. It can outgrow other trees, such as eucalyptus, albizia, strawberry guava, and 'ohia. This tree is hard to kill and vigorously resprouts when cut. All parts of this tree are poisonous and have been reported to cause nausea when handled.
Dispersal Mechanism: It is unknown how poison devil's tree made it to the Big Island, but it is suspected that it was planted in a garden for medicinal purposes. Its fleshy fruits are eaten by birds and the seeds are dispersed long distances. Currently (07/2010) is only found in 2000-3000 acres of the North Kohala area of the island of Hawaii. If you see this tree anywhere else in Hawaii, please let someone know.
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Funding and support for this project was made possible by the Hawai'i Invasive Species Council, the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry assistance, and University of Hawai'i-Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit.