Metrosideros excelsa

Family: Myrtaceae
Common names: New Zealand christmas tree, ironwood, pohutukawa
Category: proposed 1a NEMBA

 Geerts Sjirk

Metrosideros excelsa Sol. ex Gaertn is an evergreen, wide-spreading tree, branches close to the ground, 5-6 m high but stunted to 1,5 m in windy areas. Leaves bright green and smooth, coppery-red tips turning dark green and white-grey beneath. Flowers bottlebrush-like clusters. Fruit, capsule, white or grey-velvety. Seeds, microscopic capsule.Flowering time: December to January

New Zealand Christmas tree is native to New Zealand and Australia and is invasive in Japan, Spain, England, Ireland and South Africa.

History in South Africa
The species was introduced to South Africa for ornamental purposes and for hedge planting in coastal area of the Western Cape. It has been recorded in Western Cape at St Helena, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay.

Environmental and economic impacts
In South Africa this species is invading hygrophilous fynbos (fynbos on moist peaty soils) at Betty’s Bay, Gordon’s Bay, Kleinmond and on the Cape Peninsula.

How it spreads
Metrosideros excelsa spreads mainly by seeds.

 Geerts, SjirkHow to manage

There are no registered herbicides for this species in South Africa. It is currently controlled by cutting. Large plants are not easily eradicated because they coppice when cut. It is therefore advisable to control the plant at a young stage of growth.

What can you do to help?

Report sightings of these plants to the Early Detection and Rapid Response Programme (EDRR) at SANBI. We will need to know its locality (the exact locality, supply any landmarks or GPS information if possible).

Contact person
Ernita van Wyk

Email address:
Tel: 021 799 8837


Sjirk Geerts © University of Stellenbosch


  • Invasive species in South Africa. Metrosideros excelsa. Available online at:
  • Plant diary. Garden of Australia. Metrosideros excelsa. Available online at:
  • New Zealand plant conservation network. Available online at:
  • Southern African Botanical Diversity Network. Invasive alien plants in Southern Africa. Available online at: http://sobonet_invasive alien plants in southern Africa- Myrtaceae.mht

See more on invasive plants and their categories

Prepared by Buhle Mthembu

March 2012

Last updated on 25 June 2012
Copyright 2014 © SANBI | All Rights Reserved | Terms & Conditions