Taiwan cherry (Prunus campanulata) is an invasive weed that poses a real threat to our environment. Spread easily by birds, it forms dense stands in the landscape, preventing regeneration of native species that provide all-year-round food and habitat for our native animals.

It has become a major pest plant in Aotearoa New Zealand and has the potential to cause problems comparable with old man’s beard, gorse and blackberry, if it is not brought under control.

Taiwan cherry is a deciduous tree that grows up to 10m in height. It’s most likely to be noticed from late July through to early September, when the mature trees produce thousands of deep pink flowers that attract pollinators such as bees and tūī. Its thin leaves are 5-17cm long, staggered, serrated, and it has shiny, scarlet fruit (1cm in diameter) from October to December.

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Native birds such as tūī feed on the berries and nectar, however, the nectar only lasts for a couple of weeks. Good native nectar suppliers for tūī are pōhutukawa, flax, kōwhai and ngaio. Taiwan cherry crowds out these species if left to spread, giving our native birds a much shorter timeframe and food supply than what the native plants offer.

We appreciate that Taiwan cherry trees are considered to be attractive and that they draw in birds and bees, but these benefits are far outweighed by the disastrous ecological impacts this species will have on our indigenous scrubland and forest ecosystems if left to spread. We recommend replanting with native species such as kōwhai, rātā or tī kōuka (cabbage trees) to benefit the local bird and insect population.

Taiwan cherry in the Nelson area

Taiwan cherry was officially given eradication status in 2019, making it illegal to sell, propagate or distribute in the Nelson Tasman region.

This species is a high biosecurity priority, and Nelson City Council is offering free removal if you have this tree on your property. Council contractors will be contacting landowners with known trees over the coming weeks to discuss tree removal.

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What can you do?

Council is asking for the local community’s support and cooperation to help us achieve Taiwan cherry eradication, and we urge anyone who suspects they have it growing on their property to get in touch to arrange for the tree(s) to be assessed.

To report Taiwan cherry or to arrange an assessment, contact Kūmānu directly on 03 546 0910. You can also email us on biosecurity@ncc.govt.nz or call 03 546 0200.

Go to our website for more information nelson.govt.nz/taiwan-cherry

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