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Published: 2004-06-01 00:00:00

Environment Waikato seized and destroyed banned monkey apple tree plants from a Hamilton nursery.

The 70 plants were seized on Friday from the nursery following an inspection by Environment Waikato biosecurity officers. Monkey apple (Acmena smithii) is a prohibited plant under the Regional Pest Management Strategy. It is also banned nationally under the National Pest Plant Accord developed by MAF in conjunction with regional councils, the nursery and garden industry. The nursery was aware the plant was illegal and had correctly named it.

Environment Waikato Biosecurity Operations Manager Peter Russell said over 130 pest plants are banned in the Region because they compete with pasture or can take over native ecosystems. It is illegal under the Biosecurity Act to propagate, distribute, display or sell them.

Monkey apple is a long-lived tree which grows up to 18 metres tall. It grows in forest and damp shrublands and has been commonly planted for shelter and as an ornamental tree. It has aromatic glossy oval leaves and whitish flowers which bloom from October to January, followed by white or pink berries. It is fast growing and can out compete native plants.

Mr Russell said one other suspicious plant – a Chilean rhubarb - was also taken to ‘grow on’ at Waikato University’s herborium to help identify whether it was a banned variety.

He said the seizure would signal to other nursery owners that Environment Waikato was serious about preventing the spread of invasive plants. Contractors inspected all nurseries for banned plants at least annually, and had very good support for the plant pest initiative.