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Products > Metrosideros collina 'Spring Fire'
Metrosideros collina 'Spring Fire' - 'ohi'a lehua
Image of Metrosideros collina 'Spring Fire'
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Myrtaceae (Myrtles)
Origin: Pacific Islands
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Orange Red
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Synonyms: [M. polymorpha, M. 'Springfire' M. ‘Thomasii'’]
Height: 15-25 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25° F
Metrosideros collina 'Spring Fire' ('ohi'a lehua) - This upright, evergreen large shrub or small tree can grow to at least 25 feet tall by 10 feet wide with orange-red flowers blooming winter through late spring into summer. Plant in a sunny to semi-shaded area but expect heavier flowering in full sun. Give average irrigation and avoid overly wet conditions. It is tolerant of near coastal conditions and hardy to about 20 degrees F. 'Springfire', as the name implies has its main flowering in springtime when flowers often can cover the bush completely with characteristic Metrosideros-shaped flowers which lack petals but have tufts of long exerted stamens. These flowers attract nectar-feeding birds, insects and butterflies. A very useful plant as a large container specimen or for a hedge plant or even trained up as a small tree. When we first received this plant from Monrovia Nursery in 1998 and in their catalog the ultimate height was listed as 6 to 8 feet tall, but a specimen in our nursery garden plant in 1998 has grown considerably taller – measured in December 2012 the plant in our garden was 23 feet tall, when measured in April 2018 it had reached 30 feet 6 inches tall and in March 2023 it was measured at 37 feet tall by 23 feet wide for submission to be included on the California Big Tree registry. By trimming, this plant be maintained as a hedge but left alone is does become a small upright low branched tree. Although most cultivated Metrosideros are native to New Zealand, this plant was reportedly a selection of Metrosideros collina. The story goes that Ben Swane of Swane's Nurseries in Sydney Australia first grew this plant as Metrosideros thomasii (nomen nudum) and later the invalid Latinized cultivar name 'Thomasii' was applied to it. In the late 1980s cuttings were sent to Malcolm Woolmore of Lyndale Nursery in New Zealand, who propagated and marketed the plant using the name Metrosideros collina 'Spring Fire and it was under the name 'Springfire' that it entered cultivation in the U.S. in 1998 as a new introduction by Monrovia Nursery. The Metrosideros collina complex extends over much of the South Pacific and plants in the Hawaiian Island chain once considered to be Metrosideros collina subspecies polymorpha were later elevated to specific level as Metrosideros polymorpha. Redlands Nursery had obtained plants from Swane's Nurseries and promoted it in Australia in the mid 1990s listed it as being from the Hawaiian Islands and Monrovia Nursery followed suit in their 1998 catalog using the name Metrosideros collina 'Springfire' with the common name "Lehua of Hawaii" and describing it as: "Selected for it abundant brilliant rose-red powder puff-like blooms and compact upright form. Excellent as a flowering hedge. Thrives in coastal conditions. Evergreen. Full to partial sun. Compact upright growth to 6 to 8 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide. Cutting grown.". Current thought however notes that this plant more closely resembles Metrosideros collina var. villosa, native to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, well to the south of the Hawaiian Island chain. We continue to list this cultivar as a Metrosideros collina cultivar as that was the name we received it under and also think this makes more sense since most believe it more closely aligns with Metrosideros collina var. villosa. We also now use the cultivar name 'Spring Fire' instead of 'Springfire' as apparently this was the two word name originally given this plant in New Zealand. The genus name Metrosideros is derived from the Greek words 'metra' for "heartwood" and 'sideron' for "iron", in reference to the hard wood of the genus. The specific epithet "collina" is from the Latin word 'collis' meaning "a hill" and 'inus' meaning "of" or "pertaining to" that combine to mean "of a hill". If actually collected in the Hawaiian Islands this plant would be a selection of Metrosideros polymorpha, which occurs on all the main Hawaiian Islands except Ni‘ihau and Kaho‘olawe from near sea level up to 9,000 feet elevation. It was first described in 1830 by the French botanist and naturalist, Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupré (1789-1854), who accompanied Captain Loius de Freycinet on his circumglobal expedition from 1817 to 1820. They reached the Hawaiian Islands in 1819 and Gaudichaud-Beaupré is considered to be the first Western botanist to visit there. The specific epithet of the Hawaiian plant "polymorpha" is derived from the Greek words 'poly', meaning "many" and 'morphe', meaning "form" or "shape" in reference to the great variation of characteristics exhibited by this species. The flower of the Hawaiian tree is called Lehua and this tree is often referred to as the Lehua Tree or in the Hawaiian language 'ohi'a lehua or 'ohi'a. The origin of these names comes from a Hawaiian legend involving Pele, the goddess of fire. Pele was attracted to a handsome warrior named Ohia who had pledged his love to Lehua. Pele feeling scorned turned Ohia into a twisted tree but the other gods took pity on separating the two and turned Lehua into the flower on this tree. If the flower is picked and the lovers are separated legend has it that it will rain as the tears of the two lovers. 

This information about Metrosideros collina 'Spring Fire' displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.