Ground asparagus (A. aethiopicus), Climbing asparagus (A. africanus), Bridal creeper (A. asparagoides), Western Cape bridal creeper (A. asparagoides Western Cape form), Bridal veil (A. declinatus), Climbing asparagus fern (A. plumosus), and Asparagus fern (A. scandens)
Image: Climbing asparagus fern (A. plumosus), with unripe berries,© Tauʻolunga (Wikimedia).
What are Asparagus weeds?
- Asparagus are serious environmental weeds. These aggressive vine-like plants are highly invasive in sub-tropical and temperate bushland and coastal ecosystems across Australia, (except the Northern Territory).
- Seven Asparagus species are declared weeds under the Tasmanian
Weed Management Act 1999: Ground asparagus (A. aethiopicus), Climbing asparagus (A. africanus), Bridal creeper (A. asparagoides), Western Cape bridal creeper (A. asparagoides Western Cape form), Bridal veil (A. declinatus), Climbing asparagus fern (A. plumosus), and Asparagus fern (A. scandens).
The importation, sale and distribution of these Asparagus species are prohibited in Tasmania.
These Asparagus species are also all
Weeds of National Significance (WONS).
Four Asparagus species are currently known to have limited populations in Tasmania: Asparagus fern (A. scandens), Bridal Creeper (A. asparagoides), Climbing asparagus (A. africanus), and Climbing asparagus fern (A. plumosus).
Image above left: Asparagus fern (A. scandens), © K Stewart.
Image above right: Bridal creeper infestation (A. asparagoides), © CSIRO ScienceImage (Wikimedia).
How to identify Asparagus weeds
- Introduced from southern Africa in the mid-1800s, asparagus weeds were especially popular as hanging basket and garden plants and several species are still commonly traded. In Australia, asparagus weeds occur mainly across the southern and eastern regions where they have escaped from gardens to become major weeds.
Asparagus weeds are perennial herbs or climbers that form dense root systems. Several species form crowns at the base of the stems, with a root mass radiating out from the crown, while others form extensive, rhizomatous root mats.
The leaves are reduced to small bracts or scales, and branches are modified into leaf-like structures known as cladodes.
In spring Asparagus plants bear small white flowers that form fleshy berries. Some species may only have above-ground foliage during part of the year.
Difficult to control, asparagus weeds grow quickly and produce dense, vigorous thickets of foliage that climb over and smother native herbs and shrubs. They displace native plants and alter native ecosystems.
Asparagus weeds are adapted to a range of habitats and climatic conditions, for example:
A. aethiopicus and
A. scandens are highly tolerant of sandy soils and invade coastal headlands and dunes, littoral rainforests, woodlands, heathlands and riparian areas;
A. africanus prefers sub-tropical to tropical regions and occurs in semi-evergreen vine thickets, brigalow and wet eucalypt forests, riparian areas and littoral rainforests;
A. plumosus and
A. asparagoides occurs in littoral and dry rainforests, gullies, and rainforest margins.
The fleshy fruits of asparagus weeds are spread extensively by birds and other animals. Plants also spread vegetatively by rhizomes and tubers dumped in garden waste, or on earth-moving machinery such as backhoes and graders that can break up the tuberous root mass and deposit tubers at other sites where they shoot from the rhizome. Seed can be spread in mud on footwear, machinery, and in water along drainage lines. Seedlings establish readily in undisturbed bushland.
For further information or help in identifying asparagus weeds, refer to the
Weed Management Guide (Weed of National Significance) – Asparagus Weeds, published by the Commonwealth of Australia. If you are still in doubt about the weed you are dealing with, contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 for help.
Image above left: Branch of Climbing asparagus (A. africanus) with short, fine cladodes, © Sam Fraser-Smith (Wikimedia).
Image above right: Bridal veil (A. declinatus) with fruit, © Richardson, R.G. & F.J (Australian National Botanic Gardens).
Image above left: Western Cape bridal creeper (A. asparagoides Western Cape form), leaves and fruit, photo: © CSIRO ScienceImage (Wikimedia).
Image above right: Ground asparagus (A. aethiopicus) leaves and berries, photo: © Queensland Gov’t.
Asparagus weeds in Tasmania
- Although only Asparagus fern (A. scandens), Bridal Creeper (A. asparagoides), Climbing asparagus (A. africanus) and Climbing asparagus fern (A. plumosus) are currently known to be in a limited number of sites in Tasmania, climate modelling indicates that all asparagus weeds have considerable potential to spread further across temperate southern Australia or sub-tropical eastern Australia.
Bridal veil (A. declinatus) is considered a threat to southern areas of South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania, and Western Cape bridal creeper (A. asparagoides Western Cape form) having a similar potential distribution, but with greater potential to invade inland regions.
Legal status of Asparagus weeds in your area?
- The legal responsibilities of landholders and other stakeholders in dealing with asparagus weeds are laid out in the Statutory Weed Management Plans for Asparagus Weeds, (see web-links below).
For details regarding distribution of asparagus weeds, including whether your area falls in an eradication (‘Zone A’ municipality), or containment (‘Zone B’ municipality), refer to the Tables and information provided in Section 12, ‘Management of Asparagus Fern / Bridal Creeper by municipality’, in the
Statutory Weed Management Plans for Asparagus Fern, and
Asparagus Fern &
Bridal Creeper control
Statutory Weed Management Plan for
Statutory Weed Management Plan for
Bridal Creeper Weed Management Guide (Weed of National Significance)
Bridal Creeper Best Practice Management Guide
Asparagus Weeds Weed Management Guide (Caring for our Country, WoNS)
Asparagus Weeds Control
Statutory Weed Management Plan for
Other useful links
Asparagus Weeds Control Guide
- Get in early - large infestations are very difficult to eradicate;
Pull out or poison new infestations as soon as they are detected and before they flower;
For large infestations, plan your control program, as this will save time and money in the long-run;
Check an infestation regularly over several years in case of regrowth from remnants of the root system;
Follow-up control including hand-removal and/or herbicide where necessary;
Dispose of any removed material carefully - root material can survive being dried for long periods, and seeds should not be composted or mulched;
Use a dye marker with the herbicide to minimise missed plants and prevent over spraying.
- Don't plant asparagus weeds as ornamentals in your garden;
Don't leave new infestations to establish - get in early and eradicate;
Don't rely on one attempt at removal - follow-up is essential to eradicate an infestation;
Don't let it seed;
Don't dump asparagus weeds material - rhizome and root material can re-sprout and form new infestations;
Don't compost or mulch root material as rhizome fragments can re-shoot.
Spread of asparagus weeds
- Asparagus weeds are spread by seed, as well as vegetatively via rhizomes and tubers.
Local spread of an infestation occurs when the expanding mat of rhizomes and tuberous roots send up new shoots. Long distance spread of seed occurs when birds eat the fruits and deposit the seeds substantial distances from the parent plant.
Seed can also be spread in mud on footwear and machinery and in water along drainage lines.
Dumping of garden rubbish containing seeds of asparagus weeds or root fragments can also aid spread. Earth-moving machinery such as backhoes and graders can break up the tuberous root mass and deposit tubers at other sites where they shoot from the rhizome.
Asparagus weeds can establish even among healthy native vegetation where soil and litter is suitable.
Avoid the introduction of asparagus weeds
- Many infestations of asparagus weeds derive from ornamental garden plantings.
Do not plant this declared weed in your garden. Encourage other gardeners to remove the weed if it is already present in their garden.
Never dump asparagus weed material, or use the material for garden mulch as the weed can re-sprout from rhizome and root tuber material.
Washdown Guidelines for Weed and Disease Control for detailed information on how to wash-down equipment and personnel to reduce the chance of spreading asparagus weeds.
- Slashing the stems and leaves of asparagus weeds before late winter flowering may prevent fruit production, but will not eradicate an infestation.
Single Asparagus plants or small infestations can be carefully dug out and burned before they flower. Ensure that all the root system is removed to avoid regeneration from rhizomes and tubers. Destroy all material by burning or bagging and deep burial, (>1 m depth).
Minimize soil disturbance as much as possible.
Physical removal of large asparagus weed infestations is virtually impossible due to the extensive mats of tubers.
- Sheep grazing can provide some control of asparagus weed under trees in remnant vegetation, woodlots and shelterbelts.
- Fire can be used to assist in controlling larger infestations of asparagus weeds.
Burning in late summer and early autumn can remove all understorey vegetation and improve access for later spraying.
As well as improving the effectiveness of herbicide application, fire may help to destroy asparagus weed seeds and the dense tuber mat, but it will not typically kill the entire rhizomatous root system.
Always follow up burning with other control methods, such as hand removal of single plants and/or herbicide application.
Note: Great care is needed when using fire. Appropriate conditions, equipment and experienced personnel are essential. The landowner is responsible for ensuring that all planned burning can be contained and is conducted in a safe manner. Prior to any planned burn being undertaken, the landowner must inform all relevant authorities and obtain all relevant permits. The
Tasmania Fire Service is the responsible authority for granting fire-permits.
Consultation with vegetation specialists is also recommended as fire can have both positive and negative effects on native vegetation. Timing, extent and heat of the fire all require consideration.
- Biological control is the use of a living species, usually an insect, mite or disease, to control a weed.
Biological control will not eradicate asparagus weeds, but can be used in conjunction with other control methods.
Biological control research against asparagus weeds is limited; there are currently no effective biological control agents approved for release on these species.
For more information on biological control programs in Tasmania contact the
Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture.
If you have any questions about herbicide control of asparagus weeds, contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 for help.
Herbicides for Control of Asparagus Weeds