Top 4 Illegal Plants in NZ


Some plants are illegal in New Zealand. Do you know how to identify them?

New Zealand’s flora and fauna are precious assets. They set us apart from the rest of the world and make New Zealand what it is: a place of stunning landscapes and biodiversity. It’s well known that some Introduced plants can wreak havoc on our Natives.

What’s not well known is that there are a number of plants that are illegal to sell, distribute or propagate in New Zealand for these reasons, and some are more common than you may think. These include types of daisy, jasmine, willow, passionfruit, fig and rhododendron among many others.

How do I know what plants are banned in New Zealand?

These plants are listed under the National Pest Plant Accord, which was established in 2001 to help stop the spread of species that pose a threat to existing New Zealand Plants.

The National Pest Plant Accord is a cooperative agreement between the Ministry of Primary industries, New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated, territorial authorities and the Department of Conservation and is designed to stop the spread of pest plants that could seriously damage the New Zealand economy and environment.

All plants on the Accord are banned in New Zealand and are defined as unwanted organisms under the Biosecurity Act 1993, which means they cannot be distributed or sold in New Zealand.

What are some of the more well-known plants on the Accord?

1. Cyathea cooperii

There are hundreds of plants on the list, and not all would be immediately obvious to the untrained eye. For example, the Australian tree fern, Cyathea cooperii, which can grow up to 12 metres in height looks remarkably similar to native tree ferns. The only obvious difference is the stripe base, which has two different types of scales; the first being dark small scales and the other are large, pale papery scales. Like many of the plants listed under the Accord, the Australian tree fern can cause serious damage to our environment. It is a fast-growing fern that can easily take over native vegetation by forming dense strands, while its spores spread easily by wind and germinate quickly.

Cyathea Cooperii Tree taking over native trees - illegal trees in NZ

2. Rhododendron ponticum

Rhododendron ponticum is another plant listed under the accord, which is commonly known as wild rhododendron and is a dense shrub that can grow to five metres tall with violet purple flowers. White wild rhododendron resembles the commonly cultivated garden rhododendrons, and is the only rhododendron in New Zealand that easily spreads by setting down roots from its branches.

Violet purple flowers of Rhododendron ponticum Plant - illegal Plant in NZ

3. Port Jackson Fig tree

The Port Jackson Fig tree is also illegal in New Zealand. It’s an evergreen tree with narrow oval and leathery leaves whose tops are shiny and hairless, while their undersides are densely covered in fine hairs and pinkish-brown in colour. Small round green flowers develop into deep-yellow to dull-red fruit.

huge Port Jackson Fig Tree which are illegal to bring in NZ

4. Passionfruit

A variety of passionfruit can pose a risk to New Zealand plants, and it’s hard to differentiate from those that are safe to grow here. Northern banana passionfruit is an aggressively invasive vine native to the Andes that produces pink tubular flowers. According to Biosecurity New Zealand, its effects include the smothering of trees and reduction in biodiversity.

Passionfruit flowers which are banned in NZ

What should I do if I come across a plant listed under the Accord?

It’s vital if you come across what you suspect may be a plant that is classified as an unwanted organism to report it. It can be helpful to note the location in which you saw it, and to photograph it if possible, as well as taking note of its description. You can also talk to a Zones landscaping specialist in your area, or check the National Pest Plant Accord for a description and imagery of every listed unwanted organism on The Ministry of Primary Industries’ website

You might be interested in reading this: Pōhutukawa Trees & Rules Around Pruning Them

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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