Bridal creeper (Asparagus asparagoides)

Also known as: common bridal creeper

Bridal creeper is a garden plant with climbing stems. It is now a major weed of bushland where it smothers native plants. It is Weed of National Significance.

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How does this weed affect you?

Bridal creeper entered the country as a garden plant and is now a major weed of bushland in southern Australia, where its climbing stems and foliage smother native plants.

It forms a thick mat of underground tubers which impedes the root growth of other plants and often prevents seedling establishment. Rare native plants, such as the rice flower Pimelea spicata, are threatened with extinction by bridal creeper.

It also causes losses to primary industries (eg by shading citrus and avocado trees and interfering with fruit picking), espe­cially in the Murray River irrigation area.

Where is it found?

Bridal creeper is widespread in south-western Western Australia, southern South Australia and eastern Victoria. It is spreading through New South Wales and Tasmania.

How does it spread?

Bridal creeper plants can produce more than 1000 berries per square metre. Birds feed on the berries and later excrete the seeds at perch sites, usually within 100 m of source plants. However, seed dispersed by birds has helped spread the weed along roadsides and into native vegetation patches further afield. Rabbits and foxes also eat fruit and disperse seeds. The plant can spread as the root system slowly expands in area. Movement of soil containing roots (eg by grading) can spread plants further. Dumping of garden rubbish containing bridal creeper seeds or roots also spreads the weed.

What does it look like?

Bridal creeper has long, twisting stems up to 3 m in length, branching extensively. Above ground growth is annually produced from its perennial underground root system of tubers. Tubers 

Bridal creeper has soft, shiny green 'leaves' 4-30 mm wide and 10-70 mm long which occur along the length of wiry green stems.

Stems emerge annually in autumn from a mat, 0-10 cm deep, of branching rhizomes that bear numerous fleshy tubers.

White flowers with 6 petals, 5-8 mm in diameter appear in early spring. Green berries turn pink then red/burgundy in late spring-early summer.

Habitat

As well as a wide range of natural habitats, bridal creeper grows well in citrus orchards and pine plantations. It can grow in most soils but is most common close to the coast where it invades woodlands and other open coastal vegetation. It is particularly vigorous in alkaline sandy soils and thrives in areas high in nutrients such as drainage lines. Roadsides next to farms are favoured sites because of increased nutrient levels from fertilised paddocks. Bridal creeper is frost tolerant and its perennial root system enables it to survive summer drought. 

Acknowledgements

CRC for Australian Weed Management. John Virtue (SA DWLBC/Weeds CRC), Kathryn Batchelor (CSIRO), Louise Morin (CSIRO), Richard Carter (NSW Agriculture/ Weeds CRC), Beverley Overton (Kangaroo Island Bridal Creeper Control Committee) and John Thorp (National Weeds Management Facilitator). 

References

CRC for Australian Weed Management (2003). Weed Management Guide: Bridal creeper, Apsaragus aspargoides. CRC for Australian Weed Management, Adelaide, South Australia.

Other publications

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Control

Bridal creeper has a number of features which make it difficult to control in particular its underground tuber reserves provide a buffer against adverse seasons. However, it has a relatively short-lived seedbank, seed production only occurs on early emerging stems, and the seed output in old infestations is small. So it is vital to keep uninfested areas free of bridal creeper. See below for Herbicide options.

Biological control

In South Africa bridal creeper is an uncommon plant that is kept in check by its natural enemies. Three of these enemies have been released in Australia: the bridal creeper leafhopper (Zygina sp.), rust fungus (Puccinia myrsiphylli) and leaf beetle (Crioceris sp.).

The bridal creeper leafhopper has been released at more than 700 sites throughout southern Australia since 1999. The adult insect is white, 2–3 mm long and lives on the underside of bridal creeper leaves. Both the adult and juvenile stages feed on the leaves of the weed, causing them to turn white and, in severe cases, fall off. The plant will continue to grow but with much less vigour. Continual damage over several years will reduce new tuber production, making it less competitive. Rearing the leafhopper is easy and many schools and community groups have become involved in breeding up populations for local release. It can produce several generations a year and females are highly reproductive, so populations can quickly increase. 

The bridal creeper rust fungus was released in 2000 and more than 700 releases have been made across Australia. The rust fungus attacks leaves and stems, reducing the amount of green plant material. It can produce many generations a year, resulting in large amounts of wind ­dispersed spores. It produces an over­-summering spore to survive the summer absence of bridal creeper. It should spread within and between bridal creeper infestations efficiently but spread will be faster with more regional releases of the rust. The release technique for the rust is a simple process that entails shaking some of the spores onto the leaves, spraying them with water, covering them overnight with a plastic bag, then removing the plastic bag the next day. 

The techniques to redistribute the leafhopper and the rust fungus are described in detail on the CSIRO website, which also has a map of release site locations. 

The bridal creeper leaf beetle (Crioceris sp.) was first released in 2002 in Western Australia. The grubs of the beetle can cause major damage to bridal creeper by stripping the shoots and leaves that enable the plant to climb. Stopping it climbing will stop it fruiting and spreading to new areas. Trial releases in other regions are continuing. 

It will take many years for the biocontrol agents to reduce the density of bridal creeper due to the huge reserves stored underground in tubers. 

Other control methods 

Physical removal is not effective unless all the rhizomes are dug up and destroyed. This may be possible for new, small infestations or as a follow-up after several years of herbicide control of a larger infestation. Slashing the stems and leaves may prevent fruit production and slowly deplete root reserves but it will not eradicate an infestation. 

Fire can help in larger infestations. Fires in late summer and early autumn can remove all understorey vegetation and improve access for later spraying. In winter-rainfall areas, bridal creeper often emerges before the first autumn rains so herbicides may be applied before post fire regeneration of native vegetation. As well as improving the effectiveness of herbicide application, fire may help to destroy bridal creeper seed and the dense tuber mat.

However, use of fire requires permission from government authorities and it frequent use may endanger the survival of many native plant populations.

Grazing 

Grazing can provide some control of bridal creeper. Tamar wallabies on Garden Island in Western Australia have successfully kept it at low levels there, and sheep grazing may be an option to control it under trees in remnant vegetation, woodlots and shelterbelts.

Control in horticulture 

In citrus and avocado orchards it is difficult to spray bridal creeper entwined in the leaves of trees. Pruning lower limbs to provide access underneath trees, a practice known as ‘skirting’, enables spot spraying with a recommended herbicide. Trials with biocontrol agents began in citrus orchards in 2001. Disposal If the plant is being removed from gardens, dispose of it through local government kerbside collection or tip facilities. Fruiting shoot material should be bagged immediately to avoid it being dropped or dispersed by birds. Root material (which can survive being dried for long periods) and seeds should not be composted or mulched.

Follow-up 

Follow-up actions are required after treatment. If fire is used, regrowth should be treated carefully with herbicide to limit above-ground growth and further reduce the stored root reserves. Infestations should be monitored regularly and over several years because of the probability of regrowth from remnants of the root system. Regularly check for new incursions, carefully removing them or treating them with herbicide, as necessary. For new or small infestations hand digging of roots may be an appropriate follow-up technique. 

Herbicides

Herbicides have been the most effective method of control. However, because bridal creeper often grows in areas of native vegetation, it is particularly important to avoid contact with desirable plants or soil near tree root zones. Isolated plants can be treated with a recommended herbicide applied by spot spraying. As infestations become larger, a strategically staged approach for removal is advisable to ensure that treated areas are not reinfested. Off-target impacts have been a concern where herbicide has not been applied carefully. The best way to apply it is with a hand sprayer, but it can also be wiped directly on the leaves. Using a herbicide coloured with dye helps show where it has been used and limits spillage and wastage.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 50 parts water
Comments: Spray August to September only.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Brush-off®)
Rate: 10 g metsulfuron-methyl to 100 L water
Comments: Spray August to September only.
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: B, Inhibitors of acetolactate synthase (ALS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
All of NSW Prohibition on dealings
Must not be imported into the State or sold
*this requirement also applies to the Western Cape form of bridal creeper
Central Tablelands Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. Land managers should mitigate spread from their land.
Protect conservation areas and natural environments that are free of bridal creeper
Central West Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. Land managers should mitigate spread from their land.
North Coast
Exclusion zone: whole region excluding the core infestation area of Nambucca Valley Council, Kempsey Shire Council, and Port Macquarie Hastings Council.
Regional Recommended Measure*
Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Core infestation area: Land managers should reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
South East
Exclusion zone: whole region except the core infestation area of Wingecarribee, Wollongong, Kiama, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Bega
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant.
Western Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate spread from their land.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfill the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW Invasive Plants and Animals Enquiry Line on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2017