Chinese celtis (Celtis sinensis)

Also known as: celtis, hackberry, Japanese hackberry

Chinese celtis is an invasive tree. It is a garden escape that has invaded bushland areas of north-coastal regions of NSW.


How does this weed affect you?

Chinese celtis is a large, invasive tree that has become an environmental weed and a potential weed of agriculture because of its ability to become structurally dominant. It rapidly colonises disturbed bushland, forms dense thickets, replaces native shrubs and trees and dominates riparian vegetation. Chinese celtis has been recognised and listed as a serious environmental weed by bush regeneration groups, Councils and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The demonstrated ability of Chinese celtis in south-east Queensland to spread rapidly makes its control in north-eastern NSW a high priority.

What does it look like?

Chinese celtis is a large tree, growing up to 20 m tall,  with a spreading, moderately dense crown. It has a smooth, mottled grey bark with alternate, elliptical shaped leaves that are 4–7 cm long. The leaf margins are finely serrated in the upper half of the leaf.

In northern NSW it is deciduous or semi-deciduous in late winter and the dry early spring period.

Chinese celtis produces thousands of fleshy fruits that are approximately 7–8 mm in diameter. The fruits turn reddish brown to orange when ripe in autumn and early winter. Chinese celtis fruits during the same period as camphor laurel and similar birds feed on both species.

Where is it found?

Chinese celtis is a native of China, Japan and Korea and was introduced into Australia as an ornamental and shade tree.  It is a major environmental weed in south-east Queensland, expanding rapidly over recent years into major infestations along riparian zones. 

Most established populations of Chinese celtis in the northern areas of NSW are in urban areas in both private gardens and public areas. Significant but controllable Chinese celtis infestations occur in bushland in and near Lismore, near Kyogle and the upper Richmond River Catchment, in the Tweed and in Coffs Harbour. It has also been found growing along the Manning River, at Taree and Bellingen.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Chinese celtis during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2021)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

  • Estimated distribution of Chinese celtis in NSW (Map: NSW Noxious Weed Local Control Authorities, 2010)
    Map shows weed distribution and density estimated by local council weeds officers in 2010.

How does it spread?

Chinese celtis seeds are spread by birds feeding on its fruit in autumn and early winter. This enhances the dispersal of Chinese celtis throughout the disturbed, regenerating riparian zones.

Chinese celtis has also been promoted and planted as a shade and street tree, which has assisted in its spread over the years. 

What type of environment does it grow in?

Chinese celtis is reported to grow in a wide range of soils, perferring moist areas.  Current infestations are largely in riparian zones in areas originally supporting subtropical and dry rainforests.

Chinese celtis infestations initially develop in disturbed areas of riparian vegetation and in previously cleared and regenerating riparian zones. Regenerating riparian areas, also infested with camphor laurel and privet, are widespread along the north coast of NSW.


Author: Rod Ensbey

Editing and production by Bill Smith, Barry Jensen, Birgitte Verbeek and Annette McCaffery.

More information

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Chinese cleltis could be successfully controlled in NSW due to limited infestations. To do this, coordinated control must begin now while the opportunity exists.

The first step in a control program is to assess the weed problem and situation. A well planned management plan for Chinese celtis will include revegetation of the site after treatment with local native species, control of other weed species that may be present (e.g. privet, camphor laurel) and follow-up maintenance and re-treatment of the site.

Manual control

Manual removal of isolated small seedlings can be attempted by hand pulling or digging them up. This is only practical for a small number of plants. Large trees may be cut down and the stump dug up and removed.

Care should be taken to avoid moving fruit to uninfested areas when manually removing mature trees.

Herbicide control

Herbicide control is effective using the cut stump, basal bark or stem injection techniques. The method used depends on the site situation, tree size, access and personal preferences.

Currently in NSW there are a number of registered herbicides and an AVPMA permit covering the use of herbicides for Chinese celtis control.

Herbicide options

Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website

See Using herbicides for more information.

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 50 parts water
Comments: Spray seedlings and coppice shoots.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut stump/scrape stem application for saplings. Stem injection application large trees and shrubs.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate

Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Starane™ Advanced)
Rate: 2.1 L per 100 L of diesel
Comments: Basal bark application, for plants up to 2m high
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Picloram 44.7 g/kg + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump/stem injection application. Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
North Coast
Exclusion zone: whole region excluding the core infestation area of Richmond Valley Council, Ballina Shire Council, Lismore Council, Kyogle Council, Byron Shire Council and Tweed Shire Council
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: The plant or parts of the plant should not be traded, carried, grown or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Core infestation area: Land managers should reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to

Reviewed 2017