Sicklethorn (Asparagus falcatus)

Sicklethorn is a robust climber introduced as an ornamental plant. It is an emerging environmental weed with potential to invade a wide range of coastal habitats.

This weed belongs to the group Asparagus weeds

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How does this weed affect you?

Sicklethorn has the potential to invade a wide range of coastal plant communities from south-east Queensland to the central coast of New South Wales.

Its stems climb over and smother native vegetation up to 6 m tall.

It also strongly competes by forming a dense mat of tuberous roots that can prevent the germination and establishment of other species.

It can attain very large and continuous infestations.

Where is it found?

Sicklethorn is a native of western, eastern and southern Africa, Sri Lanka, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean. It is widely cultivated and naturalised elsewhere in the world.

It was introduced into Australia as an ornamental plant.

It is now sparingly naturalised on the coast from south-east Queensland to Sydney.

How does it spread?

Sicklethorn primarily reproduces from seed, but can also spread vegetatively from tubers.

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 from early spring to early summer. Fruit set occurs from summer to autumn, but fruit can be present year-round.

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

Longer distance vegetative spread is primarily by dumping of garden waste.

What does it look like?

Sicklethorn is a robust climber to 6 m tall.

The root system has short rhizomes and forms swollen tubers.

Stems originate from a basal crown that may be to more than 30 cm in diameter. Stems become woody with age and have sharp, stout thorns that curve backwards.

Leaf-like cladodes (modified stems) are produced in clusters of 3-6 at the nodes. They are shiny, dark green, straight or slightly sickle shaped (hence the common name), hairless, elongate, 30-90 mm long, 3-5 mm wide and present year-round.

Flowers are small, bisexual (both male and female parts present), white, borne on short stalks in slightly elongated clusters in the axils of the cladodes. Flowers occur from spring to early summer.

Berries are 1-3-seeded, 7-10 mm in diameter, green at first and bright red at maturity. Fruit are borne year round.

Habitat

Sicklethorn prefers moist, semi-shaded conditions in sub-tropical regions.

Seed can germinate in conditions from full sun to greater than 80% canopy closure.

It is common near human habitation and is primarily found in riparian habitats, wet sclerophyll forest, swamp oak and subtropical rainforest communities. 

Acknowledgements

Author: Harry Rose

Reviewers: Rod Ensbey, Elissa van Oosterhout

References

Brisbane City Council Weed Identification Tool: Sicklethorn (Asparagus falcatus). http://weeds.brisbane.qld.gov.au/weeds/sicklethorn-asparagus-falcatus 

Brown BM (2008) Asparagus falcatus. http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantab/asparagusfal.htm  

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, Sydney. 

Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW) Plant Database (2014) Asparagus falcatus. http://www.plantdatabase.co.uk/Asparagus_falcatus 

Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (2011). Sicklethorn - Asparagus falcatus, Queensland Government. Available at: . http://keyserver.lucidcentral.org/weeds/data/03030800-0b07-490a-8d04-0605030c0f01/media/Html/Asparagus_falcatus.htm  

Other publications

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Control

Sicklethorn is banned from sale, propagation and knowing distribution across all of NSW. It is a Regionally Prohibited, notifiable noxious weed in many council areas. This declaration requires that plants must be eradicated from the land and that land must be kept free of the plant.

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

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 in 50 parts water
Comments: Spot spray application
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 in 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut stump /scrape stem 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 - 2g in 10 L of water, plus 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 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.
Greater Sydney Regional Recommended Measure*
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.
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.
North Coast 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 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.
*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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Reviewed 2017