Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Chinese Apple (Ziziphus mauritiana) is a large shrub or small spreading tree to 8–10 m high that is a native of southern Asia, eastern Africa and many islands of the Indian Ocean.
  • It forms dense impenetrable thickets if left uncontrolled.
  • One tree can produce 8 000–10 000 seed in one year.
  • If left unchecked it is likely to have significant environmental effects on tropical and subtropical woodlands and savannas.
  • Combined physical and chemical control methods are the most effective.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Chinese Apple (or Indian jujube) (Ziziphus mauritiana) is a large shrub or small spreading tree to 8–10 m high and with a canopy up to 10 m in diameter. The plants are densely branched, from ground level in some cases. Its branches are zig-zag in shape and have a leaf and a thorn at each angle. The leaves are rounded, growing on alternating sides of the branches, glossy green above and almost white or rusty coloured underneath.

Flowers are small and inconspicuous, greenish-white, and emit an unpleasant smell.

The edible fruits are similar in size and structure to a cherry (about 20–50 mm diameter), but pale yellow, reddish-brown or orange when ripe (Navie 2004; Land Protection 2007).

For further information and assistance with identification of Chinee Apple contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

Yellow, White, Green

Growth form (weed type/habit)

Tree, Shrub

Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Chinese Apple is a weed of pastures, grasslands, open woodlands, floodplains, inland watercourses, roadsides, disturbed sites and waste areas in semi-arid, tropical and subtropical regions (Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Chinese Apple is similar to two closely related native Ziziphus species, Ziziphus oenopolia and Ziziphus quadrilocularis, and to Strychnos lucida.

Ziziphus quadrilocularis is a large shrub or small tree similar in size to Chinese Apple and with similar leaves. However, its fruit are smaller (10-18 mm in diameter) and turn reddish, purplish or black when ripe (Navie 2004).

Ziziphus oenopolia is a straggly shrub growing to 3 m tall. While its leaves are also arranged alternately they are green on both surfaces. Its fruit are smaller than that of Chinese Apple (to about 10 mm diameter) and turn black when ripe (Navie 2004).

Strychnine tree, Strychnos lucida, is a small tree with oppositely arranged leaves. Its fruits turn a bright orange when ripe and unlike the other species, the fruits are hard shelled and contain several flattened seeds in a soft white pulp (Navie 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Chinese Apple was included in the list of 71 species that were nominated by state and territory governments for assessment as Weeds of National Significance (WONS). Following an assessment process, Chinese Apple was not included as one of the 20 WONS. However, it remains a weed of potential national significance.

Agriculture: Chinese Apple infestations create dense impenetrable thickets which seriously hamper stock management and reduce pasture production and accessibility.

Native ecosystems: Chinese Apple thickets are likely to have significant environmental effects on tropical and subtropical woodlands and savannas. Mature trees produce large quantities of fruit that are readily eaten by stock, feral pigs, wallabies and birds, thereby assisting the spread of the seed.

How does it spread?

Dispersal of Chinese Apple is entirely by seed. Seed is spread by birds, native animals, stock, feral pigs and humans who eat and expel the seeds (PIER 2007). Spread is also by intentional plantings as a fruit tree (Smith 2002) and by floods (Calvert 1999).

What is its history in Australia?

Chinese Apple was introduced into Queensland in the late 1800s or early 1900s by Chinese gold miners who joined the gold rush. They planted it around their shanty towns for the edible fruit. Now Chinese Apple is the dominant vegetation of many of those old gold mining centres such as Charters Towers (Calvert 1999). It was first recorded in the Torres Strait in 1863 and Townsville in 1916 (Land Protection 2007).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Physical and chemical control management are the only methods employed in Australia to control Chinese Apple.

Non-chemical control: Physical control includes mechanical bulldozing of trees at least 25 cm below the soil surface. This will avoid resprouting. Damage to top parts of the plant usually ensures regrowth from lignotubers or cut roots (Land Protection 2007).

Dense infestations can be initially cleared by a combination of mechanical and chemical control (Land Protection 2007). Stick raking, ripping or using a cutter bar then treating the exposed stems with a basal bark spray is effective. Areas must be rechecked to control any regrowth. Fire: is not an effective control method (ISSG 2007; Land Protection 2007).

Chemical control: Herbicides have been found to be effective usually as a basal bark spray during times of active growth. Chemical application to cut stumps has also been effective at anytime of the year (ISSG 2007), but the herbicide must be applied within 15 seconds of the trunk being cut (Land Protection 2007). High volume spray mixture of herbicide and water to actively growing regrowth is also effective. Soil application of certain chemicals has been highly effective on dense infestations (ISSG 2007), but they do not work until sufficient rainfall moves the herbicide into the soil (Land Protection 2007).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Chinese Apple propagates by seeds, seedlings, direct sowing and root suckers as well as by cuttings. Seeds may remain viable for 2.5 years but the rate of germination declines with age. In Australia, plants growing under natural conditions are capable of producing seeds once they reach a height of about 1 m. Wild growing plants in northern Australia may take about 8 years to reach this height. Plants between 1 and 2 m high produce, on average, less than five fruits per season. Large plants (more than 5 m high) can produce 5 000 or more fruits in a single season. Mature trees can produce 8 000 – 10 000 seed a year. Established plants are capable of vigorous sprouting and rapid shoot growth from the stem base and root crown following top-kill (Calvert 1999; ISSG 2007).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Chinese Apple is widespread in North Queensland and mainly associated with old mining areas of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The largest areas of dense Chinese Apple are around Charters Towers, Mingela, Ravenswood and Hughenden, but the plant also occurs around many other towns in the drier parts of north and central Queensland. Small infestations occur in the Northern Territory around Darwin, Elsey, Gulf District, Katherine, Pine Creek and the Victoria River District. Small infestations also occur in northern Western Australia. It is restricted to the drier tropics with an annual rainfall of less than 1200 mm and has been recorded in areas with an annual rainfall of less than 470 mm. It has a tendency to spread along watercourses (Land Protection 2007, PIER 2007).

Where does it originate?

Chinese Apple is thought to have originated in India and is considered native to southern Asia, eastern Africa and many islands of the Indian Ocean (Navie 2004).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Ziziphus mauritiana

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Paliurus mairei H.Lev.
  • Rhamnus jujuba L.
  • Rhamnus mauritiana (Lam.) Soy.-Will.
  • Ziziphus aucheri Boiss.
  • Ziziphus jujuba (L.) Lam.
  • Ziziphus jujuba (L.) Gaertn.
  • Ziziphus jujuba var. fruticosa Haines
  • Ziziphus jujuba var. stenocarpa Kuntze
  • Ziziphus mairei K.Browicz & Lauener
  • Ziziphus poiretii G.Don

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Chonky Apple, Chinese Date, Crab Apple, Indian Date, Indian Cherry, Indian Plum, Indian Jujube, Malay Jujube, Sour Jujube, Yunnan Jujube, Yunnan Spiny Jujube, Ber

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