Snakefeather (Asparagus scandens)

Also known as: asparagus fern, climbing asparagus, climbing fern

This weed belongs to the group Asparagus weeds

Profile

Impact

Snakefeather is a weedy member of the Asparagus genus that is native to southern Africa. It was introduced to Australia as an ornamental plant, and now poses a serious environmental weed threat to southern Australia. It is shade tolerant and competes with native plants for water, space and nutrients. Its tuberous root system forms a dense mat that prevents native seedlings from germinating, and its climbing stems can smother small understorey plants. 

In New Zealand it is the most damaging of all the asparagus weeds, and in Australia it is thought that snakefeather could have similar impacts to those of bridal creeper (Asparagus asparagoides).

Distribution

Infestations are scattered in Australia but are increasing, particularly in southern Victoria. There are also infestations in northern Tasmania, South Australia and south-west Western Australia. In New South Wales the worst areas of infestation are around Sydney and on Lord Howe Island. 

Infestations are found close to human habitation, but modelling predicts that snakefeather could potentially invade across coastal areas of New South Wales and central and southern Queensland.

Spread

Humans are a major cause of spread, through the movement and dumping of garden waste. Snakefeather is also spread when birds consume the fruit. 

Description

Snakefeather is a creeping or climbing vine with thornless wiry stems. It is perennial, and retains its above-ground foliage year-round. It has green, delicately-branching stems giving a fern-like appearance. The leaves are dark green and sickle-shaped, and occur in groups of three along the branchlets. 

Stems arise from a crown attached to masses of fibrous underground roots and tubers. 

Fruit are glossy round berries that ripen to orange-red, and usually contain one seed. 

References

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (2013), Asparagus weeds Management Manual: Current management and control options for asparagus weeds (Asparagus spp.) in Australia, Sydney

Other publications

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Control

Herbicide options

Contact your local council weeds officer for control advice for Snakefeather (Asparagus scandens).

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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
Hunter
Land Area 1: Hunter region except Cessnock and Lake Macquarie. Land Area 2: Cessnock and Lake Macquarie
Regional Recommended Measure*
Land Area 1. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Notify the Local Control Authority if found. Land Area 2. Land managers should mitigate spread from their land. Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment.
*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