“King Liholiho ʻIolani (Kamehameha II) and his queen, Kamamalu, died in London while on a visit to see their ‘great and good friend’ George IV.”
“In order to show its respect for the royal pair who had travelled so far and who had come to such an untimely end, the British government sent their remains back to Honolulu in the Blonde frigate ….”
“The Horticultural Society of London, hearing of the intended departure of the Blonde for the Sandwich Islands, and wishing to help the natives of that group, obtained permission to send on the Blonde a fine collection of plants, considered suitable for the climate of ‘Owhyee’ under the charge of James Macrae, a young Scotsman, trained as plant collector and horticulturist.”
“The plants were to be distributed as a gift among the chiefs of the islands. By the same opportunity, John Wilkinson, a skilled agriculturist, was induced, evidently through promises held out to him by Boki … to come out to Honolulu with the intention of starting some kind of tropical farm on land to be given him by Boki.” (Wilson)
The common guava was introduced into the islands in the early-1800s by the sea-faring Spanish botanist, Don Francisco Marin. Live plants of Waiawī (strawberry guava – a native to southeastern Brazil) were probably introduced into the islands from England on board the ‘Blonde’ in 1825. Shortly after their introduction, both species became wild. (HEAR)
Strawberry guava has been intentionally introduced in nearly all of the countries in which it is currently found. Its attractive fruit and leaves are generally desired more as an ornamental than a fruit crop. It was originally transported from its native range in Brazil to China at an ‘early period,’ presumably by the Portuguese. Seeds were taken to Europe in 1818. (Wessels)
“Of the thousands of plants that have been introduced into Hawaiʻi over the past 225 years since the arrival of Captain James Cook, the strawberry guava has to be one of the worst invasive plants in Hawaiʻi’s mesic to wet forests.” (Miyashiro)
While not an aggressive plant in its native environment, in Hawai‘i and most other places it has been introduced to, strawberry guava is a vigorous invader of native plant communities.
It is able to occupy and tolerate a broad range of environmental conditions (23 different vegetation types ranging from dry grassland to tall, native forest.)
Shade tolerance is an attribute that allows for the seeds to germinate and establish themselves in areas otherwise unavailable, thus increasing the habitats it is able to occupy. (KRCP)
In the early 1900s this plant, along with many others now recognized as invasive species, were planted intentionally by forestry workers on mountain slopes denuded by grazing cattle. The idea was to plant fast-growing and easily naturalizing plants to control the mass amounts of soil being lost to erosion on the barren mountain sides.
It is now common on all of the major Hawaiian Islands between sea level and 4,000 feet in elevation, especially in landscapes that receive moderate to high amounts of rainfall.
Strawberry guava engulfs everything in its path under a tangle of roots and sprouting trunks that steal light, water, and nutrients from native plants and destroy habitat for native birds and invertebrates. At current pace, it could replace entire native ecosystems and endangered species habitat.
The tree spreads by both shoots and seeds and grows fast in Hawaii, owing in part to the absence of the predators and diseases found in its native Brazil.
Strawberry guava crowds out the understory plants that protect our soils, increasing soil erosion and runoff into our streams, nearshore waters, and coral reefs.
Dense thickets of strawberry guava are impossible to penetrate, blocking access to the native forests and popular trails for hikers, hunters, birders, and subsistence gatherers. (Conservation Council for Hawai‘i)
Strawberry guava is fast growing and bears a substantial amount of fruit which translates to a substantial amount of seeds. Some counts from different sites on Hawai‘i Island found fruit containing 25-70 seeds per fruit.
Guava relies heavily on dispersal via animals, especially feral pigs. The fruit is eaten by pigs and birds, passed through their digestive system and deposited back into the earth where seeds germinate and grow.
Allelopathy is another technique used by strawberry guava to maximize its potential. This is a process where the plant releases certain biochemical (likely from its roots) that suppresses the germination and growth of species around it.
Strawberry guava’s robust growth contributes to its persistence and difficulty to control. Cutting branches and even the entire stump just causes many new shoots to emerge, barely harming the tree. (KRCP)
Strawberry guava is one of the greatest threats to native Hawaiian forest birds. It displaces native plants that feed and shelter native birds, and invades their essential foraging and nesting habitat.
It infests hundreds of thousands of acres across our state. It produces billions of seeds annually and spreads at exponential pace – often into steep or remote terrain. (Conservation Council for Hawai‘i)
Though it yields fruit and wood, strawberry guava is one of the most serious threats facing Hawaii’s native forests. Research shows that strawberry guava can ultimately invade almost half of the land area of Hawaii Island, degrading nearly 300,000 acres of conservation lands on that island alone. Remaining rainforests on other islands are similarly threatened.
“Water loss from the invaded strawberry guava forest in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is 27% higher than that from the native forest on average. This is a huge loss of water from our soils, streams, and groundwater systems.” Thomas Giambelluca, Professor, Dept. of Geography, University of Hawai‘i)
Strawberry guava has not been identified as a potential biofuel in any serious commercial proposal in Hawai‘i. The areas where we most want to control its growth would be difficult if not impossible to access for commercial purposes. (Conservation Council for Hawai‘i)