Galapagos Species Checklist

Cinchona pubescens


Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida (= Dicotyledoneae)
Order Gentianales
Family Rubiaceae
Genus Cinchona

Cinchona pubescens  Vahl


English common name: Quinine, Red Quinine Tree

Spanish common name: Cascarilla, Quinina, Quina

Taxonomic comments: Syn.: Cinchona succirubra Pav. ex Klotzsch fide Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew & Missouri Botanical Garden (2010)

Name status: Accepted name; taxon occurs in Galapagos.

Description: Evergreen tree up to 15 m in height with broad, opposite leaves. Flowers are fragrant, white or pink and arranged in clusters. Fruits are cylindrical capsules up to 4 cm long that contain numerous small, light and winged seeds which are dispersed by wind.

Usually produces a main trunk but also often develops several trunks a short distance away, which emerge by suckering from underground stems. This way, tree takes on a multi-stemmed growth form, with the individual stems still connected. Leaves turn bright red when old.

Year of first record: 1971

Last updated: 16 Oct 2017


  • In
  • Na

  • Ac
  • Cu
  • Er
  • Es

    Taxon introduced for agricultural or domestic use; naturalized in the wild.

  • Ic
  • AcQ
    Questionable Accidental
  • NaQ
    Questionable Native


Galapagos island groups: Santa Cruz.

11,000 ha on Santa Cruz.

Preference for altitude zone in Galapagos: Humid zone.

Native range: Natural distribution is from Costa Rica to Bolivia at altitudes between 300 and 3300 m.

Please be aware that this distribution map is automatically generated from database records (CDF and external specimens, literature records, and observations) and may not accurately reflect the currently-known distribution for all species.

General Ecology

Habitat preferences: Native to neotropical forests, prefers humid and warm upland sites. Shade-tolerant and can tolerate a wide range of ecological conditions, including drought.

Substrate or host preferences: Often grows in steep gorges that are difficult to access and in disturbed habitats in its native range in Ecuador, as well as in Hawaii and Galápagos. Soils in Ecuador are volcanic and rich in organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus, warm and slightly acid.

Trophic role: Primary producer (autotroph: an organism that does not require organic matter to feed on but is capable to produce its own energy).

Growth form: Trees.

Reproductive biology: Youngest seed producing trees found in Galápagos were 2 years old, 1.8 m tall and with a DBH of 1.5 cm. Germinates well in dense vegetation and spreads rapidly by light windborne seeds and also vegetatively by suckering from stems.

Reproduction mode: Both sexual and asexual.

Dispersal propagule: Various.
Seeds and stem sprouts.

Galapagos associated species: Mainly epiphytic ferns, like Phlebodium pseudoaureum and Polypodium tridens

Natural enemies: Fungi species associated with C. pubescens: Elsinoe cinchonae Jenkins, Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands, Prillieuxina cinchonae J.A. Stev. (Systematic Mycology and Microbiology Laboratory).

Economic use: Quinine extracted from the bark was historically used as an antimalarial drug and quinidine is still used today as an antiarrhythmic drug. Wood is used for construction.

Invasion Ecology

Aggressive status: Transformer (An introduced species that is in the process of drastically, fundamentally and often irreversibly changing natural habitat.).

Form of introduction: Intentional introduction.

Impact in Galapagos: Started spreading about 30 years after introduction in the 1940s. Has invaded farmland and all vegetation zones in the highlands of the National Park: Scalesia-, Miconia- and Fern-Sedge zones. Transformed formerly treeless vegetation zone into near-forests. Reduces cover and diversity of most other plant species, especially of endemic species, like the shrub Miconia robinsoniana, the herbs Justicia galapagana, Pilea baurii and the tree fern Cyathea weatherbyana. Dense stands of quinine reduce light by 87 % and increase nutrient availability in the soil.

Known pest elsewhere: Hawaii, Tahiti, Java oeste

Related species impact: Cinchona calisaya in Hawaii.

Persistence mechanisms: Seeds


Control history in Galapagos: Successful control methods now applied by the Galapagos National Park Service are: manual control by uprooting of trees and hand-pulling of smaller plants. Chemical control by ‘hack and squirt’ technique, which consists of applying a mixture of picloram and metsulfuron to connecting machete cuts around the circumference of the tree trunks.

Studies on the impacts of these measures showed that despite an initial decline in species cover, native plants recover again and cover as well as species diversity increases 2 years after control took place. However, it is unclear whether this recovery is transient, since long-term data is lacking. Control actions probably also facilitated the establishment of other introduced species and seemed to be assisting the spread of the highly invasive blackberry (Rubus niveus) in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. In addition, constant hand-pulling of germinated seedlings would be necessary to assure control success in the long run.

Control methods elsewhere: Not known


Temperature tolerance: Thermonormal (warm: an organism adapted to moderate temperatures, an indicator of habitats subjected to moderate temperatures).

Continentality: Continental (Distribution of a terrestrial species far away from the ocean.).

Light tolerance: Heliophytic (an indicator of moderately light-exposed habitats).

Precipitation preference: Ombrophilous (an organism that depends on regular wetting by rainwater, an indicator of habitats that frequently receive rainfall).

Adaptation to substrate moisture: Humid (indicator of substrates often saturated with water).

pH preference: Acidophytic (an indicator of low, acidic pH).

Eutrophication tolerance: Eutrophic (indicating high nutrient levels).

Exposure tolerance: Moderately exposed (indicators of habitats exposed to light, rain, or wind).



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