Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster glaucophyllus)

Also known as: large-leaf cotoneaster

Cotoneaster is a large evergreen shrub with red berries. It is a garden escapee that forms dense thickets in bushland around towns.


How does this weed affect you?

Cotoneaster grows in urban bushland and along roadsides. It

  • is poisonous to people, dogs and livestock
  • forms dense thickets under trees shading out local native species.

Human poisoning

Cotoneaster is mildly toxic to humans. The fruit is poisonous and can cause gastroenteritis, but a large quantity would need to be eaten to have this effect.

What to do if a person is poisoned:

  • If the patient is unconscious, unresponsive or having difficulty breathing dial 000 or get to the emergency section of a hospital immediately.
  • If the patient is conscious and responsive call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your doctor.
  • If going to a hospital take a piece of the plant for identification.

Animal poisoning

The fruit contains cyanogenic glycosides which turns to cyanide in the stomach. This can cause poisoning in some animals, especially ruminants (e.g. cattle and sheep). The berries also contain another unidentified toxin which causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.

What does it look like?

Cotoneaster is a large upright or arching evergreen shrub that grows to about 3m tall. It has clusters of small berries in autumn and winter.

Leaves are:

  • dark green above 
  • light green-grey underneath, with white hairs
  • 20–80 mm long and 15–40 mm wide
  • oval or egg shaped with smooth surfaces and edges.

Flowers are:

  • white with five petals
  • 5 mm wide
  • in clusters of 20–60 along branches
  • on 2–4 mm long stalks.

Fruit are:

  • red when mature
  • 7–8 mm in diameter
  • round
  • in clusters
  • each with 2 seeds.


Seeds are 2–3 mm across.


  • can be numerous
  • extend from near the base of the trunk.

Similar species

 Two other weeds look similar. They both have leaves less than 30 mm long. 

  • Milk-flower Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster coriaceus)
  • Silverleaf Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster pannosus)

Where is it found?

Cotoneaster is widely planted in gardens and has naturalised in the Central and South Coast and all Tablelands regions. Most plants are found in or near populated areas. 

Cotoneaster is native to south-western China.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Cotoneaster grows in temperate regions and can tolerate hot, cold, dry, wet and salty conditions. It grows in:

  • gardens
  • woodlands
  • grasslands
  • coastal areas
  • areas along waterways
  • roadsides
  • waste areas.

How does it spread?

By seed

Cotoneaster produces a lot of fruit. Seeds are spread by birds and other animals including foxes that eat the fruit.  

Seeds are also spread by dumping garden waste. 

By plant parts

Stems or branches that contact the ground can regrow.


Identic Pty. Ltd. and Lucidcentral. (2016). Environmental Weeds of Australia: Cotoneaster glaucophyllus. Retrieved 2021 from:

McKenzie, R. (2012). Australia's poisonous plants, fungi and cyanobacteria: a guide to species of medical and veterinary importance. CSIRO.

PlantNET (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. Retrieved 20 February 2020 from

Shepherd R.C.H (2010). Is that plant poisonous?. Everbest Prniting, China.

More information

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Successful weed control relies on follow up after the initial efforts. This means looking for and killing regrowth or new seedlings. Using a combination of control methods is usually more successful.

To manage cotoneaster:

  • hand-pull small plants throughout the year
  • treat larger plants with herbicide.

Planting dense, low growing native shrubs soon after controlling the weeds will help prevent new seedlings from growing. 

Physical removal

By hand

Hand-pull or dig out seedlings throughout the year.

Chemical control

Cut stump method

When: Just after fruiting in autumn. 

Cut trunks or stems, and apply herbicide to the stump within 15 seconds of cutting. 

Stem injection

When: Spring or early summer, before fruit mature in early autumn.

Drill or make cuts into the sapwood and fill with herbicide within 15 seconds of making the cut. 

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 per 1.5 parts of water
Comments: Cut stump or drill/axe cut/inject.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate

Picloram 44.7 g/L + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump application: Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm. Stem inject application for trees: Make a series of cuts 15-20 mm deep around the trunk using an axe or saw. Space cuts evenly with no more than a 20-40 mm gap between them. Apply a 5 mm layer of gel over the lower surface of the cut.
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.

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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 2021