Chinee apple

Chinee apple is a declared Class A and Class C weed.

Chinee apple also has a statutory weed management plan (1.0 mb) which outlines the legal requirements for control, and a weed management guide (2.9 mb) with more information.

Another name for this plant is Ziziphus mauritiana.

Chinee apple - infestation


You should use this as a guide. There may be other plants or weeds that look similar.

If you are unsure, contact the Weed Management Branch.


These features describe the habit of this plant:

  • large thorny shrub or small spreading tree
  • between 3 to 6m tall.

Chinee apple - habit

Stems and branches

These features can identify the stems and branches:

  • bark is dark grey to black
  • branchlets have fine hair and a zigzag form with a leaf and thorn at each angle.

Chinee apple - stems and branches


These features can identify the leaves:

  • rounded with a toothed margin
  • glossy green above and woolly and white underneath.

Chinee apple - leaves


These features can identify the flowers:

  • tiny cream-coloured flowers
  • in small clusters
  • produce a bad smell.

Chinee apple - flowers

Fruit and seeds

These features can identify the fruit and seeds:

  • round
  • turns from green to yellow and reddish-brown when ripe
  • edible, tasting like apples.

Chinee apple - fruit and seeds


Chinee apple can have all of the following impacts:

  • grows well in disturbed or cleared areas
  • forms dense thickets
  • dramatically alters native environment
  • dramatically reduces stocking rates
  • impedes mustering
  • restricts stock access to water.

Habitat and distribution

Chinee apple is native to southern Asia and eastern Africa.

It was first recorded in the Torres Strait in 1863, and in Townsville, Queensland in 1916. 

Since then it has spread extensively through the dry tropics in Queensland, mostly in disturbed areas. 

It was probably introduced as a shade and fruit tree.

Isolated infestations occur in a range of tenures in the Top End and Katherine regions. 

It is dense along small tributaries of the Katherine, Roper, McArthur and Victoria Rivers. 

There are also known infestations in Bing Bong Harbour.

Spread prevention

Chinee apple seeds are spread by domestic stock, feral animals and people who like to eat the fruit. 

Germination is much more likely if the fruit has been eaten as this removes or damages the endocarp and releases the seeds. 

Seeds can remain viable in soil for at least a year.

In the Northern Territory most chinee apple spread can be attributed to deliberate plantings in homesteads and communities, some of which have spread far beyond original planting sites.

You can prevent the spread of chinee apple by doing all of the following:

  • map infestations to help develop a management plan
  • control minor infestations, isolated outbreaks or seedlings first
  • designate wash down areas and actively work to prevent contamination of clean areas
  • isolate and monitor newly transported stock
  • preventing grazing in areas where chinee apple fruit is available
  • schedule control works to occur prior to fruiting
  • monitor areas that you have treated and watch for re-infestations
  • discourage collection and consumption of fruit.

Chinee apple - spread


Mechanical control or burning can be used to improve access to infested areas for follow up chemical control. 

Basal barking can be effective on trees of larger diameter. 

Basal barking, being less labour intensive than cut stumping, may be a preferable option for sparse or remote infestations. 

Cut stump applications may be the best management option for trees in urban/landscaped situations where the dead tree material will be removed to retain aesthetics.

Chemical control

The best time to treat chinee apple is from March to May. Below is a list of treatment methods that can be used.

Chemical and concentration Rate Situation, method and notes
Aminopyralid 8 g/L + Triclopyr 300 g/L + Picloram 100 g/L
Grazon® Extra
350mL / 100 L Seedling (individuals and infestations):
Foliar spray, apply when actively growing + non-ionic wetting agent required
Triclopyr 300 g/L and Picloram 100 g/L
Various trade names
350mL / 100 L Seedling (individuals and infestations under 2m):
Foliar spray, apply when actively growing + non-ionic wetting agent required
Triclopyr 600 g/L
Various trade names
1L / 60L (diesel)
1 L / 60 L (diesel)
Seedling (individuals):
Basal bark < 5cm stem diameter
Adult (individuals or infestation):
Cut stump > 5cm stem diameter
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L
Starane® Advanced
1.8L / 100L (diesel)
1.8L / 100L (diesel)
Seedling (individuals):
Basal bark < 15cm* stem diameter, treat up to 45 cm from ground
Adult (individuals or infestation):
Cut stump > 15 cm stem diameter
Triclopyr 240 g/L + Picloram 120 g/L
1L / 60L (diesel)
1L / 60L (diesel)
Seedling (individuals):
Basal bark < 15cm* stem diameter
Adult (individuals or infestation):
Cut stump > 15cm stem diameter
Picloram 20 g/Kg
Tordon® granules
35 to 45g / m2 Apply granules over an area extending from the main stem to 30cm outside the dripline to cover the main part of the root system

Foliar spray is suitable for seedlings up to 1m tall. A fine spray with low application pressure enables good coverage of the whole plant. This method can be applied at any time that seedlings are actively growing.

Basal bark treatments are best administered during the active growing season. 

This will be approximately March to May depending on the onset of rain and location. 

This method involves spraying around the whole stem up to 300mm from the ground.

Cut stump treatments can be undertaken at any time of year, but are best administered during the active growing season. This method involves applying herbicide to a newly cut stump immediately following chain sawing.

Non-chemical control

Given chinee apple’s resilience to physical disturbance and its capacity to rapidly regenerate, follow up spraying of regrowth is essential.

Blade ploughing

A blade plough is used to push over some woody shrubs and sever their roots underground. 


Bulldozers, chopper rollers or graders are used to clear large weed infestations. This leaves large areas of soil exposed so follow up control or revegetation should be considered.

Stick raking

A large blade with teeth attached to a bulldozer is used to clear large weed infestations. 

This leaves large areas of soil exposed so follow up control or revegetation should be considered. 

Given the low levels of chinee apple infestations in the Northern Territory, this method of control is generally considered inefficient and cost prohibitive.

Last updated: 28 November 2017