Red Cestrum

Also known as:
Purple Cestrum
Mexico, South America

General description

Erect perennial shrubs < 4 m tall. Stems are hairy and purple, turning smooth and woody with age. Leaves are hairy, oval, < 15 cm long and give off an unpleasant odour when damaged. C. elegans flowers are tubular, magenta/crimson and borne in clusters year-round. C. fasciculatum flowers are tubular, scarlet/purple and borne in clusters in August – March. Fruits are crimson or dark-red berries.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell red cestrum. As red cestrum is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.

Forest, forest gaps, forest and riparian margins, shrubland, wasteland, urban areas, roadsides.

Seeds dispersed by birds, water and soil movement. Vegetative spread from roots and root fragments. Human-mediated dispersal through dumping of garden waste and movement of contaminated soil on machinery.

Forms dense stands, displacing native plants and preventing native seedling recruitment. Toxic to livestock.

Site Management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig out

Plant parts requiring disposal: All parts

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical. Cut stems can resprout.


Biocontrol is currently not available for this species.

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications
Cut stump and paste freshly cut base of stems with metsulfuron gel
Ringbark stem and paste with metsulfuron gel

Basic Growsafe certified
Cut stump and spray freshly cut base with 5g metsulfuron-methyl per 1 L of water

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user
Foliar spray seedlings with 5g metsulfuron-methyl per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant

Safety notes

Poisonous to animals.

CAUTION: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Similar species

queen of the night
Cestrum nocturnum

C. nocturnum has creamy white flowers & white berries.

green cestrum
Cestrum parqui

Green cestrum has greenish-yellow flowers and shiny purple berries.

Search tags

RPMP status

National Pest Plant Accord Species
Red cestrum - Main species image