Galapagos Species Checklist

Cinchona pubescens Vahl

Cascarilla, Quinina, Quina, Quinine, Red Quinine Tree

Cinchona pubescens Vahl, highlands of Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos. Photo: Frank Bungartz, CDF, 2007.
Cinchona pubescens Vahl, highlands of Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos. Photo: Frank Bungartz, CDF, 2007.

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.





Magnoliopsida (= Dicotyledoneae)





Taxon category: Accepted

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


Preference for an altitude zone in Galapagos: Humid zone

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

Persistence mechanisms: Seeds

Reproduction mode: Both sexual and asexual

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.

Growth form: Trees

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

Dispersal propagule: Varius

Seeds and stem sprouts.

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

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

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.


Aggressive status: Transformer

Introduction route: 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.

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

Known Pest elsewhere: Hawaii, Tahiti, Java oeste

Year of first record: 1971

Year of introduction: 1946


Distribution map of specimen collection localities or observation records for this species in our collections database.

Distribution: 11,000 ha on Santa Cruz.


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