Firetree, candleberry myrtle, fire bush (Eng); faya, haya (Spa); faia, faia-das-ilhas, samouco (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? In 1973, the Spanish Royal Mint issued a two peseta stamp depicting a small branch of the firetree laden with its characteristic purple fruit.
An evergreen tree, with dense foliage and very branching from the base. It is generally 3-6 m tall, although exceptionally it can be as much as 20 m. It has a somewhat twisted trunk that can be surrounded by shoots at the base. Its bark is rough, cracked, and a greyish brown colour. The leaves are simple, alternate, leathery, hairless, and a shiny bright green colour on the upper side. The adults have an entire margin, somewhat twisted and wavy, whereas the edge of young leaves tends to be irregularly serrated. The blade has an elongated lanceolate shape, is 5-12 cm long, and terminates in an obtuse or rounded tip. The firetree is generally dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants. The male flowers are grouped into small, elongated, branching catkins that are a yellowish-greenish colour. The female catkins are pinkish and shorter than the males. They are also less visible as they are hidden beneath the leaves. After fertilisation, they form somewhat fleshy, globose fruits that have a granular surface reminiscent of a mulberry, although they are harder and smaller (up to 8 mm in diameter). As they ripen they change from green to red, and then finally turn a purplish black colour.
The firetree is a component of the laurel forests and it is an important element of the Morella-Erica heath, but it can also occupy valleys in mixed pine forests. In some specific locations it forms true forests. This tree grows best at altitudes of between 500 and 1000 m, on north- and east-facing slopes. Even so, on La Palma and Tenerife it can be seen as high as 1700 m in some places. It is very demanding when it comes to humidity and is little tolerant of cold weather. In addition, it has a noticeable preference for loose soil rich in organic matter.
This tree is endemic to the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands. According Flora iberica, the specimens growing in the coastal region of central and southwestern Portugal are considered sub-spontaneous, or doubtfully spontaneous. In the Canaries, the firetree can be found on all the islands.