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Native Plants vs Pest Plants

Updated: Jun 3

Both beautiful looking plants to look at - yet one of these is a native plant and the other is a pest!


Do you know the difference?



Thistle make you want to root for the natives!


In our ever adapting world, pest plants are winning the war against our beloved native plant species.

All living things need 5 things to survive, can you name them?


S_______, W____, T__________, N________ and A__!


Pest plants, much like animal pests, were brought to New Zealand, either knowingly, or unknowingly by humans. Hundreds of years have passed since then and humans have gained the knowledge that the plants, that were initially brought to NZ (pest plants), are threatening the survival of native NZ plants.

Pest plants pose a threat to the natives as they compete with them for the 5 essential things needed to survive; sunlight, water, temperature, nutrition and air (or space). The native plants of NZ have never had to share these elements before and unfortunately, have not adapted to survive.

To add to the competition between pest and native plants; pest plants produce hundreds and thousands of seeds in comparison to native plants. Think of a can of peaches, this represents the seeds in a seed pod of a native plant. Now, imagine a can full of baked beans, the baked beans represent the seeds in a seed pod of a pest plant. There’s hundreds more baked beans in a can than there are peaches; meaning that the pest plant seeds outnumber the native seeds, one hundred to one, even one thousand to one!


As pest plants produce so many more seeds, in comparison to the natives, they take over; leaving the native plants no access to the 5 essential elements.





These New Zealand native plants and trees need your help…


Can you identify them below? (Answer at the end of the blog).


You can boost their chances of survival by eradicating the pest plants in NZ by weeding! Start in your backyard, at your school and in your community.


These are the plants that need to be pulled out:







1 - Moth Plant - This plant takes over and competes with native plant species. Caution: Poisonous, with sap that has an irritant effect.


2 - Woolly Nightshade - The berries of this plant are toxic. It crowds out other plants. Caution: Dust from plant irritates skin, eyes, nose and throat.


3 - Brush Wattle - Fast growing plant. Brush Wattle seeds survive for a long time in the soil. These two factors enable it to out-compete native plants.


4 - Pampas Grass - This pest is double trouble! It not only competes with and smothers other plants but animal pests such as rats, rabbits and possums build their homes in it.


5 - Japanese Honeysuckle - This “weed” takes over native plants by smothering them.



Let's get rid of pest plants!


Once you’ve identified a pest plant, follow these 3 simple steps to dispose of it:

1. Cover up! Make sure you’re wearing long pants and sleeves; plus gloves and closed in shoes. (This will prevent your skin from coming into contact with the pest plant. Remember, some plants can be poisonous and cause skin irritation.)

2. Put them where they belong; in the bin! Once pulled, put the pest plant in the red (waste) bin. (Don’t put the pest plants in the compost or in the green waste bin as this won’t stop the spread of the pest plants’ seeds.)

3. Plant, plant, and keep on planting!

One last step; to really give our native plants a good chance at surviving… Plant more native plants and trees!




Did you know we run community and school planting initiatives?


We work in partnership with schools and organisations and support will help coordinate a day that connects your people with nature.


E-mail our Community Co-Manager at dawn.edwards@mbct.org.nz


Images of past events below.





Native plants matching:


1 - Kanuka

2 - Harakeke

3 - Puriri

4 - Manuka

5 - Carex

6 - Kowhai


Content based on Auckland Council Biosecurity Team's lesson plan for Eye on Nature 2020 School Days.

Learn more about the Biosecurity Team's work!