Climbing asparagus (Asparagus africanus)

Also known as: asparagus fern, ornamental asparagus

Profile

Impact

Climbing asparagus has the potential to invade a wide range of coastal and sub-coastal plant communities from Cape York to northern New South Wales, but has been recorded as far south as Sydney.

It strongly competes with native ground cover and understorey plants by forming a dense mat of rhizomes and roots that can prevent the germination and establishment of other species.

It can attain very large and continuous infestations.

Distribution

Climbing asparagus is a native of Africa and Saudi Arabia.

It was introduced into Australia as an ornamental plant and was first recorded naturalised in 1976.

It is now naturalised in coastal and sub-coastal Queensland, northern New South Wales and sparingly as far south as Sydney.

Spread

Climbing asparagus primarily reproduces from seed, but can also spread vegetatively from rhizomes.

Seedlings germinate in autumn and early winter. The main growth period is from autumn through to spring, but green foliage is present year-round. Flowering chiefly occurs in winter and spring, but may not occur for up to 4 years after germination. Fruit set occurs from spring to summer, but fruit can be present year-round. Seed production is prolific and seed may survive for up to 3 years in the soil or more.

Fruit are spread by birds, foxes, reptiles and other animals that can deposit seeds far from the parent plants. Fruit are also spread by water and garden dumping.

Short distance vegetative spread is by rhizomes. Longer distance vegetative spread is primarily by people moving plants or their parts.

Description

Climbing asparagus is a perennial climber or low shrub, which is fern-like appearance.

The root system is thick, fleshy and fibrous; it has short rhizomes, but does not form tubers.

Stems originate from a basal crown that is up to 60 cm in diameter. Stems are ribbed, thick, often woody, and to 12 m long. Older stems have sharp, often curved, spines 6-12 mm long.

Leaf-like cladodes (modified stems) and branches are spirally arranged and not in one plane.

Cladodes are borne in groups of 6-12 at each node along the branches; each cluster has a small brown bract at the base. Cladodes are spine-like, cylindrical, hairless, 10-15 mm long and about 0.5 mm wide).

Flowers are small, bisexual (both male and female parts present), greenish white and borne in clusters of 1- 6 in the axils of the cladodes.

Berries are 1-seeded, 4-6 mm in diameter, green at first and bright orange at maturity. Fruit are borne year round.

Habitat

Climbing asparagus prefers sub-tropical to tropical regions.

It is primarily found in semi-evergreen vine thickets, brigalow, wet eucalypt forests, riparian areas and littoral rainforests. 

Acknowledgements

Author: Harry Rose

Reviewers: Rod Ensbey, Elissa van Oosterhout

References

Hosking JR, Sainty GR, Jacobs SWL & Dellow LL (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK

Office of Environment and Heritage (2013) Asparagus weeds management manual: current management and control options for asparagus weeds (Asparagus spp.) in Australia. Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW)

Plant Database (2014) Asparagus virgatus. Available at http://www.plantdatabase.co.uk/Asparagus_virgatus [accessed 02 July 2014]

Weeds of Australia: Asparagus Fern - Asparagus virgatus. Available at http://keyserver.lucidcentral.org/weeds/data/03030800-0b07-490a-8d04-0605030c0f01/media/Html/Asparagus_africanus.htm [accessed 02 July 2014]

Other publications

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Control

Suspected climbing asparagus plants should be reported to the local council weeds officer, who will assist with positive identification, removal and control.

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
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Staraneā„¢ Advanced)
Rate: 300 to 600ml per 100 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 50 parts water
Comments: Spot spray application, best done between flowering and berries forming.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut stump/scrape stem.
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: 1 - 2 g in 10 L of water plus add a non-ionic surfactant
Comments: Spot spray application
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


Picloram 44.7 g/kg + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut / stump stem injection application
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


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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 Mandatory Measure
Must not be imported into the State or sold
Greater Sydney Regional Recommended Measure*
The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Notify local control authority if found.
Hunter Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
South East
Exclusion zone: whole of region except core infestation areas. Core infestation area: Wollongong, Kiama, Shellharbour, Bega and Shoalhaven local government areas.
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. Core infestation area: 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