What is it?
This evergreen South American shrub grows to just over a meter, and has the white, star-shaped flower with yellow centre typical of other plants of this family (potatoes, capsicums, eggplants, black nightshade and even tomatoes!). Its most striking feature is the masses of yellow, orange and red jaffa-like berries it produces after the flowers have finished, making it look like an ornamental chilli or capsicum plant.
Where is it found?
Jerusalem cherry tends to turn up in shady places – under trees, grazed bush remnants, along river and stream banks, behind old sheds and along hedgerows.
Why is it wicked?
As well as being poisonous, Jerusalem cherry forms dense stands that take over large areas if left uncontrolled. The berries are spread far and wide by birds, water and soil movement. It’s shade tolerant which means it will invade into bush areas if given a chance, crowding out more desirable species.
What can you do?
For small sites you can pull out the Jerusalem cherry plants and leave them on the ground to rot down – as long as this is done before the berries form! Berries need to be disposed of by burning or taking to your local refuse transfer station. For larger infestations using herbicide will be most effective. The best technique is to cut the stump close to ground level and paint or brush herbicide on immediately – check out https://www.weedbusters.org.nz/weed-information/weed-list/jerusalem-cherry/ for control methods.
Exclude stock from infested areas, and replace Jerusalem cherry in and around bush remnants, river and stream areas with suitable native species – check your local Department of Conservation office for advice on what grows best in your area.
Weedbusters is an interagency weeds awareness programme supported by all regional councils and unitary authorities, the Department of Conservation, Biosecurity New Zealand, Federated Farmers, Biodiversity New Zealand, NZ Landcare Trust, Nursery and Garden Industry Association, NZ Biosecurity Institute, and NZ Plant Protection Society.