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Products > Plants - Browse By Region > Metrosideros collina 'Springfire'
Metrosideros collina 'Springfire' - 'ohi'a lehua

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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. 'Spring Fire']
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 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 the height was listed as 6 feet tall but a specimen in the nursery garden planted in 1998 has pushed past 20 feet tall. By trimming this plant it can be maintained as a hedge or in a more natural form but left alone is does become a tree - measured in December 2012 the plant in our garden was 23 feet tall! Although most cultivated Metrosideros are native to New Zealand, this plant was reportedly a selection of Metrosideros collina. The story was that an Australian nurseryman collected this plant in the Hawaiian Islands and it was later propagated and marketed by another nurseryman from New Zealand but this story has never been fully verified. The Metrosideros collina complex extends over much of the South Pacific and plants in the Hawaiian Island chain are now considered to be Metrosideros polymorpha or M. collina ssp. polymorpha. This species 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. We continue to list this cultivar as a M. collina cultivar as that was the name we received it under. 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" and the specific epithet "polymorpha" is derived from the Greek words 'poly', meaning "many" and 'morphe', meaning "form" or "shape" in reference to the great variation of characteristics exibited by this species. The flower of this 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. We originally got this plant from Monrovia Nursery and have been growing and selling it since 1999.  This description is based on our research and observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery garden and in other gardens that we have visited. We also try to incorporate comments received from others and appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information about this plant, particularly if they disagree with what we have written or if they have additional cultural tips that would aid others in growing Metrosideros collina 'Springfire'.