Ornamental trees that spread from initial plantings. Native to Central America and the Caribbean, C. caudatum, commonly called Fiddlewood, is naturalized on Oʻahu, Kaua’i, Maui, and Hawaiʻi Island. C. spinosum, another species Fiddlewood, has naturalized on O’ahu, Molokai, and Maui. The Division of Forestry and Wildlife of the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources has designated both these species as one of Hawaiʻi’s Most Invasive Horticultural Plants.
Fiddlewood was introduced to Hawai’i in 1931 by the Hawai’i Sugar Planter Association Arboretum (now Lyon Arboretum). Ironically, its original use was to feed nonnative birds, the same frugivorous birds that spread so many invasive species in Hawai’i, including fiddlewood. There was and still is plenty of food for these invasive species dispersers. Spreading rapidly from initial plantings, fiddlewood was widely planted in Oahu as a street tree.
As a shade tolerant, bird-dispersed species, fiddlewood forms dense thickets that shade out native and other more desirable species. In cultivation, this tree is very susceptible to wind damage, especially when young. Lastly, this species is a host to the black twig borer, a pest that can destroy coffee farms and make cultivated plants look unhealthy.
Description and Dispersal:
- Trees up to 50 ft tall
- C. caudatum has smooth leaves (5 in long by 1.5 in wide) glossy on top and dull underneath, small white bell-shaped flowers ground on tail-like clusters (up to 4 in), the fruit grows in cylindrical clusters, matures to orange, then black
- C. spinosum has larger leaves (8 in long by 4 in wide), small orange-yellow flowers growing in clusters up to 12 in long, and the fruit grows in cylindrical clusters, orange and red turning black when ripe
- Seeds spread by fruit eating birds