Climbing asparagus fern (Asparagus plumosus)

Also known as: ferny asparagus

Climbing asparagus fern is a wiry branching vine that invades rainforest vegetation by climbing into the forest canopy and smothering trees.


How does this weed affect you?

Climbing asparagus fern is a weed of natural areas that smothers ground cover plants and climbs up into the canopy. It:

  • outcompetes native plants
  • reduces food and habitat for native animals
  • smother tree branches and cause them to fall
  • forms dense mats underground that prevent other plants from germinating.

Invasion and establishment of exotic vines and scramblers has been identified as a key threatening process for many vulnerable and endangered species in NSW. Climbing asparagus fern is one of the main species listed as a threat.

What does it look like?

Climbing asparagus fern is a long-lived, occasionally spiny, branching vine with wiry, climbing stems. It scrambles over other plants and can grow to around 5 metres.

Leaf-like cladodes

Asparagus plants have modified stems called cladodes that look like leaves. The cladodes are:

  • dark green
  • fine, thread-like
  • 4-7 mm long and 0.5 mm wide
  • grouped in clusters of 8-15
  • feathery looking.

Flowers are:

  • greenish to white
  • bell-shaped  with 6 petals that curve backwards
  • 5-7 mm wide and 3-4 mm long
  • single or in pairs on the end of branches
  • present from early spring to early autumn.

Fruit are:

  • rounded berries
  • 4-5 mm in diameter
  • green, then black when ripe
  • ripe from autumn to winter.

Seeds are:

  • black
  • round
  • 3-4 mm in diameter
  • often solitary but up to 3 per fruit. 

Stems are:

  • twining and wiry
  • climbing vines up to 5 m
  • greenish to reddish brown
  • spineless or sometimes have scattered curved spines
  • woody when older
  • branching stems grow in a flat plane.


  • are fibrous and sometimes fleshy but without tubers
  • consist of a central crown made up of a cluster of rhizomes which are horizontal, underground stems that can send out roots and shoots.

Similar looking plants

Climbing asparagus fern looks similar to other Asparagus plants, including:

  • climbing asparagus (A. africanus), which has clusters of flowers and orange fruit when ripe.
  • edible asparagus (A. officinalis), which has spineless stems that die off in summer and red fruit when ripe.

Where is it found?

Climbing asparagus fern was introduced to Australia as a garden plant and is now a weed in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. It is common in coastal areas and is found around Sydney and the mid and north coast of New South Wales, including Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.

It is native to southern and eastern Africa and is also a weed in the United States of America, Central America and some pacific islands.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Climbing asparagus fern grows in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions. Plants can tolerate heavy shade and grow best when they have support to climb. Usually it grows in areas with 500-1500 mm of rain per year and it prefers moist fertile soils. Though it can tolerate sandy, salty conditions such as saltmarsh and coastal dunes. Climbing asparagus fern also grows in:

  • forests including littoral rainforests and casuarina forests
  • marshy areas and along waterways
  • parks and gardens
  • disturbed areas such as roadsides
  • open woodland and urban bushland.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Climbing asparagus fern during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2024)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

How does it spread?

Climbing asparagus fern can spread from seed or plant parts (rhizomes, or root fragments).

By seed

Plants usually start producing fruit between two and four years of age. Seeds are spread by animals that eat the fruit and then pass the seeds. They are also spread by water.

By plant parts

Root fragments are spread by dumping of green waste, deliberate planting in gardens and contaminated machinery or vehicles.


Identic and Lucid (2016). Weeds of Australia: Asparagus Fern – Asparagus plumosus. Retreived 28 October 2022 from:

OEH (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, Sydney.

OEH (Office of Environment and Heritage). (2017). Invasion and establishment of exotic vines and scramblers – profile (Key threatening process). Retreived 28 October 2022 from:

Parsons, W.T. & Cuthbertson, E. G. (2001). Noxious weeds of Australia. CSIRO publishing.

PlantNET (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. Retrieved 28 October 2022 from:

VicFlora (2022). Flora of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Retreived 11 November 2022 from: [WG1] 

More information

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Successful weed control requires follow up after the initial efforts. This means looking for and killing regrowth or new seedlings. Using a combination of control methods is usually more successful. Because of their hardy roots plants can re-sprout. Check plants to make sure they are dead and follow up with more control work if needed.

To manage climbing asparagus fern:

  • check for seedlings regularly as they can grow very quickly (they germinate any time of year but mostly early autumn to late spring)
  • control plants before they set seed in autumn and winter.

Physical removal

By hand

Seedlings and small plants can be hand pulled. A knife or trowel can help ease the plant out of the ground. Remove all roots, including the crown, or the plant can regrow. This option is best used in soft soil like sand or loam or when soils are moist. Plant material should be disposed of appropriately.


This method involves digging out the entire crown that sits just below the surface of the soil so the plant can’t grow. Cut stems off to get to the crown. Use a knife or sharp trowel to cut away all the roots that are attached to the crown. Pull out the crown using a mattock or trowel and dispose of crown appropriately. If part of the crown or rhizomes are left in the soil the plant can re-grow.


Slashing or cutting the stems and leaves can stop new fruit from forming, and create access for other control methods. It also encourages new growth on the ground, which can be easier to treat with herbicides.

Slashing can drain the plant of energy, limit fruit and seed production and slow growth but will not kill plants. Slashing should be combined with others control methods for effective, long-term control. If plants are fruiting, slashing should be avoided as it will spread the seeds.


Asparagus weeds may be composted but compost material should not contain any fruit. Regular turning and covering the plants in black plastic can help the compost process. Check for any regrowth from crowns and spot spray the new foliage. Contact your local council for advice on disposal.

Chemical control

Spot spraying

Spray plants that are actively growing. Apply the herbicide mix to all of the foliage. 

Cut stump

Cut the stems as close to the ground as possible. Apply herbicide to the remaining stems and to all of the crown within 15 seconds.  

Herbicide options

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

See Using herbicides for more information.

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Staraneā„¢ Advanced)
Rate: 300 to 600mL per 100 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application
Withholding period: Do not graze failed crops and treated pastures or cut for stock food for 7 days after application. See label for more information.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 50 parts water
Comments: Spot spray application, best done between flowering and berries forming.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 9 (previously group M), Inhibition of 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3 phosphate synthase (EPSP inhibition)
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut stump/scrape stem.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 9 (previously group M), Inhibition of 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3 phosphate synthase (EPSP inhibition)
Resistance risk: Moderate

PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Various products)
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: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High

Picloram 44.7 g/L + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Rhizome application: prune the shoots to get access to the rhizome apply a 3-5 mm layer of gel across the cut surface on the rhizome. See label for further critical comments.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
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 pest 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 certain dealings
Must not be imported into the state, sold, bartered, exchanged or offered for sale.

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.

Reviewed 2024