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Photo Credit: James Parker

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Photo Credit: Kim and Forest Starr



  • FAMILY Fabaceae
  • CATEGORY Trees

calliandra, powderpuff, red calliandra, kaliana (Calliandra calothyrsus)

Native to the wet tropical forests of Central America, Calliandra calothyrsus thrives on the windward sides of the island chain, currently invading parts of Kauai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii Island. The weedy shrub aggressively colonizes disturbed areas, forming monotypic stands that both shade out and outcompete with native and more desirable plants. An alarming characteristic as Calliandra calothyrsus is in the horticultural trade and is used in landscaping statewide. Propagules are spread short distances by ballistic explosions of seeds and by wind. The nitrogen-fixing tree can be self-compatible, needing only one plant to successfully reproduce, and it reaches reproductive maturity in one year.

  • Large shrub to small tree consisting of multiple stems
  • Leaves are composed of smooth, green leaflets-typical of the Fabaceae family
  • Red flowers, composed of showy stamens, are feathery in appearance
  • Fruits are flattened, long brown pods containing 3 to 15 dark brown seeds


  • Ability to spread great distances by way of the horticulture trade
  • Pionere tree that is disturbance-adapted
  • Shade tolerant
  • Ability to form dense monotypic stands
  • Fast growth to reproductive maturity
  • Tolerates a broad range of climates, elevations, and soil types
  • Sets fruit continuously