Asparagus - asparagus fern (Asparagus virgatus)

WEED ALERT: REGIONALLY PROHIBITED WEED
If you see this plant contact your council weeds officer, the NSW Invasive Plants & Animals Enquiry Line 1800 680 244 or email weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Profile

Impact

Asparagus fern has the potential to invade a wide range of coastal and sub-coastal plant communities, in areas north from Sydney.

It competes with native ground cover and understorey plants by forming dense infestations that smother other species and prevent their germination and establishment.

It can form very large, continuous infestations.

Distribution

Asparagus fern is a native of eastern and southern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

It was introduced into Australia as an ornamental plant and is still found in older gardens. Its foliage is still used world-wide in the cut flower industry.

It now occurs in coastal and sub-coastal Queensland and is especially common in the south-east of that state. In New South Wales it is not widespread, but occurs mostly in the Sydney district.

Spread

Asparagus fern primarily reproduces from seed, but can also spread vegetatively from rhizomes.

Green foliage is usually present year-round. The main growth period is from autumn through to spring. Flowering occurs mostly in spring. Fruit set occurs from spring to summer, but fruit can be present year-round.

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

Short distance vegetative spread is by rhizomes. 

Description

Asparagus fern is an erect herb, climber or shrub 0.4-0.8 m tall, usually with year-round foliage.

The root system consists of long, narrow rhizomes and fibrous roots that lack tubers.

Each plant has a small number of erect, spineless, wiry stems.

Leaf-like cladodes (modified stems) and branches are spirally arranged.

Cladodes are borne in groups of mostly 3-6 (rarely 1-7) at each node along the stems. They are soft, hairless, thread-like, cylindrical and relatively small (3-15 mm long and about 0.5 mm wide).

Flowers are small, bisexual (both male and female parts present), greenish-white and borne singly in the axils of the leaves.

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

Habitat

Asparagus fern prefers shady, well-drained locations, but will grow in full sun to greater than 80% canopy closure.

It is primarily found in riparian areas, near forest margins, or in disturbed sites and wasteland near habitation, however it is a potential weed of many habitats. 

Acknowledgements

Text compilation: Harry Rose.

Technical review: Rod Ensbey.

Editing: 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 

Weeds of Australia: Asparagus Fern - Asparagus virgatus. Available at http://keyserver.lucidcentral.org/weeds/data/03030800-0b07-490a-8d04-0605030c0f01/media/Html/Asparagus_virgatus.htm 

Other publications

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Control

For assistance with the control of this weed, please contact your local council weeds officer. 

The main methods of control include excluding plants from uninfested areas, physical removal of all plant parts, and herbicide application, depending on:

  • size and density of the infestation
  • accessibility
  • time and resources available
  • habitat infested.

Continued follow-up and re-treatment is essential for all control methods.

Physical control

Seedlings or small plants can be hand-pulled in small-to-medium sized infestations.

Plants can be dug out, but the entire root system needs to be removed.

Physical removal can be difficult, due to the way the root system can spread beneath the roots of nearby vegetation or objects such as rocks, logs and other structures (e.g. fences).

Removal should be done in autumn and winter when soils are moist, prior to flowering or fruiting, and when plants have foliage on them.

Slashing above-ground foliage can be undertaken under some circumstances. However, it will not kill the plants and is not suitable for natural areas. It is usually undertaken around 6 months prior to treatment with herbicides (foliar spraying).

Herbicide control

Herbicide applications are recommended for medium-to-large infestations, but can also be used for small infestations.

Suitable methods are cut and paint, basal bark spray and foliar spot spray. Apply when plants are actively growing.

Foliage often mingles with desirable vegetation, making off-target damage from foliar spraying problematic. The foliage also provides little surface area for chemical uptake.

Other methods

There are currently no biological control agents for asparagus fern.

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 600 ml 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 / stem scrape application
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 per 10 L of water plus a non-ionic surfactant.
Comments: Spot spray application, best done between flowering and berry formation.
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 application
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Legal requirements

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Noxious Weeds (Weed Control) Order 2014 published in the NSW Government Gazette, detailing weeds declared noxious in New South Wales, Australia, under the Noxious Weeds Act 1993. The Order lists the weed names, the control class and the control requirements for each species declared in a Local Control Authority area.

All species in the Asparagus genus are declared except Asparagus officinalis (edible asparagus) and Asparagus racemosus (native asparagus).

Area Class Legal requirements
Bayside 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Bellingen 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Blue Mountains 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Burwood 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Camden 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Campbelltown 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Canada Bay 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Canterbury-Bankstown 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Central Coast 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Cessnock 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Clarence Valley 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Coffs Harbour 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Cumblerland 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Dungog 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Fairfield 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Georges River 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Hawkesbury River County Council 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Hornsby 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Hunters Hill 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Inner West 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Kempsey 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Ku-ring-gai 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Lake Macquarie 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Lane Cove 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Liverpool 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Maitland 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Mid-Coast 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Mosman 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Nambucca 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Newcastle 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
North Sydney 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Northern Beaches 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Parramatta 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Port Macquarie-Hastings 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Port Stephens 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Randwick 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Rous County Council 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Ryde 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Shoalhaven 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Strathfield 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Sutherland 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Sydney 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Upper Hunter County Council 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Waverley 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Willoughby 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Wollondilly 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant
Woollahra 2 Regionally Prohibited Weed
The plant must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant

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Reviewed 2015