Syzygium smithii syn. acmena smithii

Monkey apple

Also known as:

Lillipilli, lilly pilly

Family: Myrtaceae

Origin: Australia

Close up of mature cream fruit.
Fruit can be eaten by humans and children like to climb mature trees as side branches start low to the ground. Healthy trees with low susceptibility to disease.

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • Parkland with Significant Ecological Areas — Site-led
  • Whole region — Sustained control
  • National Pest Plant Accord Species
  • Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area priority status

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Tree < 15 m tall. Leaves are < 15 x 8 cm, glossy and oval. Flowers are cream and borne in October – January. Fruit is fleshy, round, often slightly flattened, white/pale pink/mauve and < 1.7 cm in diameter.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • you must not breed, distribute, release or sell monkey apple. As monkey apple is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand
  • you must not plant monkey apple within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property
  • you must destroy any monkey apple on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.

Habitats

Forest, plantations, roadsides, gardens.

Dispersal

Seeds dispersed by birds and water. Human-mediated dispersal through deliberate planting.

Impact on environment

Invades native forest, potentially causing transformative change to forest composition and structure.

Control

Site management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: Seeds.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical.

Biocontrol

Biocontrol is currently not available for this species.

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications: Cut stump and paste freshly cut base of stems with metsulfuron gel or ringbark stem and paste with metsulfuron gel.

Basic Growsafe certified: Cut stump and spray freshly cut base with 5g metsulfuron-methyl per 1 L of water.

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user: Drill and inject trees with 10g metsulfuron-methyl per 1L of water if safe to do so. Drill 18mm holes (tangentially angled downwards) in a spiral up the trunk. For 50mm stems drill one hole. For 100mm stems drill two holes. For larger stems drill holes 150mm apart. Foliar spray seedlings with 5g metsulfuron-methyl per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant

Safety notes

Large trees must not be drilled that are closer than 1.5 times the height of the tree from paths, walkways and property.

Trees over 4 metres in height should be removed by a qualified arborist.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Monkey Apple leave and mature fruit.
A large hard wood tree that can grow up to 15m tall. Imported from Australia this has been a favourite hedging plant and specimen tree planted by settlers.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Monkey Apple Tree covered in pink fruit.
A prolific flowering tree producing cream flowers from October to January. Fruit can be white or pink and are eaten by native kereru.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Close up of Monkey Apple fruit.
Leaves can be glossy and deep green, with new leaves having a red tinge making it an attractive specimen tree. Very hardy, can grow in any conditions and can re-sprout when chopped down.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Monkey Apple leaf tips with fruit.
Competes with the native and rare Swamp Maire. Seeds are taken into the forest and can germinate.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Monkey Apple leaf tips with fruit.
Seeds are able to germinate in many conditions making them a threat to native forests. Trees can grow quickly and produce fruit at a young age.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Monkey Apple leaf tips with fruit.
It is important to make sure that the tree stump is chemically treated as it can re-sprout. Extensive underground roots store food so the tree can re-grow.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
New Monkey Apple red leaf growth.
New leaves can be attractive due to their red/ purple colouring. Can easily be trimmed into hedges that can handle dry and windy conditions.
Mature Monkey Apple tree covered in fruit.
Plants are weedy and are not to be grown or planted. Plants should be removed if they are found at any location in NZ.
Monkey Apple sapling on forest floor.
Seeds can stay viable in the soil for many years so once a tree is removed you should return to the site and look for saplings. Small saplings can be hand pulled.