Family: Myrtaceae
Common names: New Zealand Christmas tree, ironwood, pohutukawa
Category: 1a NEMBA in the Overstrand District

 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, Sjirk

How to eradicate

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 Invasive Species Programme 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
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