Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from China, Silver-leaved Cotoneaster (C. pannosus) is an upright or arching evergreen shrub,  to 2–5 m tall, leaves are tough, relatively small 1.5–4 cm long and 1–2.5 cm wide, 10–20 flowers in clusters with dull red small fruit.
  • Found growing as an environmental weed in temperate and sub-tropical regions of south-eastern Australia.
  • Widely cultivated as an ornamental plant, and has escaped from cultivation into neighbouring bushland.
  • Produces abundant red fruit that are eaten and dispersed by birds possibly pest species, and spread in garden waste.
  • Forming dense thickets that compete strongly with and displace native plant species.
  • Tolerant is a wide range of environmental conditions (heat, drought, cold, wet, salinity).
  • Can be controlled by application of herbicides too cut or damaged actively growing stems.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster pannosus) is an evergreen to semi-deciduous, arching to upright shrub, usually growing to 2–4 m tall, but reaching up to 5 m. The leaves are alternately arranged along the stems. Leaves are tough, relatively small 1.5–4 cm long and 1–2.5 cm wide, oval (elliptic) to ovate (shaped like a section through the long axis of an egg and attached by the wider end). The upper leaf surface is dull green in colour and can be pubescent (slightly hairy) when young soon hairless (glabrescent), while the lower surface is always tomentose (densely felted below) covered in white hairs giving it a silvery or white appearance. The leaf-stalks are 3–8 mm long, also densely felted covered in white hairs.

The white flowers are in dense clusters of 10–20 borne along the branches on petioles (flower-stalks) 2–8 mm long. Individual flowers are 6–8 mm in diameter, have five spreading petals each about 2.5 cm across, and numerous (up to 20) stamens that are nearly as long as the petals, with purplish to red anthers surrounding 2 club-shaped stigmas.

The rounded fruits are dark dull red, sometimes hairy, 7–8 mm in diameter, and contain 1–2 seeds each 3–5 mm long (Lu & Branch 2003; Navie 2004).

For further information and assistance with identification of Silver-leaved Cotoneaster contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster occurs mainly in urban bushland, grassland, open woodlands, forest margins, river banks and other waterways, roadsides, railway lines, disturbed sites and waste areas. This species is found in temperate and sub-tropical regions in Australia (Groves & Hosking 1997; Henderson 2001; Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster can be confused with several other Cotoneaster species occurring frequently in Australia. Franchet's Cotoneaster (C. franchetii), Large-leaved Cotoneaster (C. glaucophyllus), Milkflower Cotoneaster (C. coriaceus) [as C. lacteus] and Khasia Berry (C. symondsii) [as C. simonsii] are all similar (Navie 2004).

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster can be distinguished from Franchet's Cotoneaster by its white flowers, and its dark red and sometimes hairy fruits usually containing 2 seeds. Franchet's Cotoneaster has pink to pinkish-white flowers and orange-red fruits containing 3 seeds (Lu & Branch 2003; Navie 2004).

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster can be separated from Large-leaved Cotoneaster by its relatively small leaves 1.5–4 cm long, greyish-green and somewhat hairy upper leaf surfaces, and dark red and sometimes hairy fruits. Large-leaved Cotoneaster has larger leaves 2–8 cm long, smooth and dark green upper leaf surface, and bright red and smooth fruits (Navie 2004).

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster differs from Milkflower Cotoneaster by its relatively small leaves 1.5–4 long, its dull grey-green upper leaf surface that are somewhat hairy. The leaves of the Milkflower Cotoneaster are generally larger, to 70 mm long, and have shining dark green, most hairless, upper leaf surfaces with distinctly indented veins (Navie 2004).

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster can be distinguished from Khasia Berry by its dark red fruits, dull grey-green upper leaf surfaces, and moderately clustered flowers, with 6–20 flowers. Khasia Berry has shiny red-orange fruits, bright green upper leaf surfaces with a sparse covering of flattened hairs, and flowers occurring in clusters of 1–4 (Navie 2004; Baker 2007).

Cotoneaster species can also be confused with some Pyracantha (Firethorns) and Crataegus (Hawthorns) species. Pyracantha species can be distinguished by their stems that are armed with spines. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Azarola (C. x sinaica) [as C. sinaica] can be distinguished by their deeply lobed and serrated leaves and thorns 5–25 mm long on the stems (Navie 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster grows in urban bushland and along roadsides grasslands, open woodlands, forest margins, waterways, roadsides, railway lines, disturbed sites and waste areas in temperate and sub-tropical regions. The fruits of closely related Large-leaved Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster glaucophyllus) are poisonous and fruits of Silver-leaved Cotoneaster may also be poisonous if ingested by humans, stock, and [domestic] dogs. 

Agriculture: Not a problem in pastures but if stock have access to the plant may cause animal poisoning. The fruits likely contains cyanogenic glycosides which turns to cyanide in the stomach. This can cause poisoning in some animals, especially ruminants e.g. cattle and sheep (DPI NSW 2019). This species may also act as a host for bacterial fireblight, a disease of orchards (Queensland Government 2016) and the species may be susceptible to honey fungus and the beet aphid.

Native ecosystems: Silver-leaved Cotoneaster is documented as being a significant weed of native bushland areas, and is capable of forming dense monotypic thickets that displace native species and alter plant community composition, through water, light and space competition (Starr et al. 2003). The plant produces abundant, highly viable seed that can be dispersed into native bushland or other native habitats and the abundant seedlings compete strongly with native plants, and with each other, due to their rapid growth and competitive root system (Sigg 2004). Silver-leaved Cotoneaster is also shade tolerant and can grow on infertile soils (Cooke 2001). The berries may encourage and support pest bird species such as starlings, blackbirds and sparrows (Tamar Valley Weed Strategy 2008). Silver-leaved Cotoneaster is tolerant to a range of environmental conditions, including damp, cold, saline and drought stressed environments.

Human impacts: As the fruits of the closely related species, Large-leaved Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster glaucophyllus) are  poisonous to humans (Navie 2004) and Silver-leaved Cotoneaster may poses similar effects on humans and animals. The fruit of Large-leaved Cotoneaster cause gastroenteritis, but a large quantity would need to be eaten to have this effect, especially by children and children have become violently ill after eating berries. The berries of also contain another unidentified toxin which causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs (DPI NSW 2019; Herbiguide 2021).

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.

How does it spread?

The red fruit of Silver-leaved Cotoneaster are eaten and dispersed by birds which can carry and drop the seed some distance away in neighbouring bushland (Sydney Weeds Committees 2008). The fruit can also be transported in garden waste. This species can also produce roots from branches that are in constant contact with the ground and can produce coppice shoots after being cut down or pruned (Sigg 2004; Navie 2004).

What is its history in Australia?

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster is widely cultivated as an ornamental or hedge plant, and has escaped from plantings into neighbouring bushland in Australia, California and Hawaii (Starr et al. 2003). It was first recorded as naturalised in Australia (in Victoria) in 1973 (Groves & Hosking 1997).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: As for other Cotoneaster species smaller plants of Silver-leaved Cotoneaster are easily removed by pulling. As seed germination can occur all year round, pulling of seedlings should be maintained throughout the year. The numerous seedlings compete vigorously with each other, therefore it may be more efficient to wait until most plant have been killed through sibling competition before pulling (Weedbusters 2004). Cleared sites should be replanted quickly with dense, low growing native shrubs to help prevent seedling regrowth (Weedbusters 2004). The carpet of seedlings that emerge, normally after removal of the mother plant(s) can be manually removed, smothered with mulch, or black plastic, or sprayed with herbicide. 

Chemical control: Larger plants can be cut close to the ground and treated with herbicide to prevent re-shooting, preferably in summer-autumn just after fruiting (Muyt 2001). Frequent removal of shoots produced from the stump may be required (Sigg 2004). Plants can also be treated with drill and fill / stem injection method in spring or early summer, before fruit mature in early autumn with drilled holes or cuts made into the sapwood and filled with herbicide within 15 seconds of making the cut (Muyt 2001). Cut stump method should be carried out just after fruiting in autumn with trunks/stems cut and  herbicide applied to the stump within 15 seconds of cutting. The carpets of seedlings cam be sprayed with herbicides, or larger plants with an application of foliar spray with penetrant.

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)

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster grows through the spring months and flowers mainly during spring and summer, after which fruits are produced. The berries can persist through winter. Cotoneaster species are apomictic (i.e. they can produce seed without fertilisation) and can self-fertilise, thus fruit and seed production can be abundant (Navie 2004; Sigg 2004). Seed germination outside of cultivation usually occurs after autumn and winter rains (Sigg 2004).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster is most common in coastal and sub-coastal regions of New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania, and occurs less commonly in south-eastern Australia in similar to higher rainfall areas in South Australia, Victoria, and south-western Western Australia, also occurring in south-eastern Queensland (Harden & Rodd 1990; Navie 2004). In Western Australia this species is common in parts of the Darling Ranges and along roadsides between Perth and Albany (Hussey et al. 2007).

Where does it originate?

Silver-leaved Cotoneaster originates from South-western China, occurring naturally in the Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces (Lu & Branch 2003).

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

Cotoneaster pannosus

Other scientific names (synonyms)?


Does it have other known common name(s)?

Cotoneaster, Silver-leaf Cotoneaster, Silver Leaf Cotoneaster, Silverleaf Cotoneaster, Silver Cotoneaster, Velvet Cotoneaster

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