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Asparagus Fern

Botanical name: Asparagus aethiopicus
Noxious Weed Category: Class 4

Asparagus Fern    Asparagus Fern
Asparagus Fern in flower                                                               Asparagus Fern with ripe berry
Photo: Ku-ring-gai Council

Description

Also known as Ground Asparagus, Asparagus densiflorus and Protoasparagus densiflorus. Originating in South Africa, Asparagus Fern is a multi-branched prostrate perennial shrub or scrambler forming a dense mat of tuberous roots. Branches grow to 60cm with a covering of small spines. Flowers are bell-shaped, white-pale pink clusters, flowering in late summer.

Fruit are red berries to 8mm wide containing 1 to a few black seeds about 4mm in diameter, occurring winter/early spring

Dispersal

Seeds are spread by birds, water and dumping. Asparagus Fern can also reshoot from rhizome pieces left in the ground or dumped as garden waste.

Impact on bushland

This weed is invasive and poses a significant threat to the bushland environment. This weed may cause distress to neighbouring properties both through the plant stems spreading over boundary lines and birds depositing seeds in their droppings. These seeds germinate readily and will start new infestations. Due to the plants' invasive nature, treatment to contain this weed must start immediately. As this weed is likely to continually grow and spread, total removal is recommended.

Control Measures

The growth of the plant must be managed in a manner that reduces its numbers, spread and incidence and continuously inhibits its reproduction and the plant must not be sold, propagated or knowingly distributed.

Control

Manual:

  • The growing points of Asparagus Fern must be removed below the surface.
  • The numerous water tubers can be left in the ground, as they contain no food and the plant cannot reproduce from them. 
  • Wear thick gloves. With secateurs cut off stems about 20cm above soil level and bag. Don't cut too low or you may lose sight of where the crown is.
  • Larger berries will ripen if left lying on the ground. 
  • Check where stems join crown.
  • Use knife, peter lever or mattock to cut around crown to sever roots and water tubers. These may be left in place. Lift out crown, checking it is entire and bag. 
  • Follow up: seed lasts a few years in the soil, so you need to watch out for seedlings. Use a knife to ease these out - usually the whole plant will come up easily. Seedlings may sprout where you have removed larger mature plants.
  • See Pittwater Ecowarriors Removal Techniques below.

See Manual Weed Control Techniques.

Chemical: Please contact your local control authority for advice on chemical control.

References

National Trust Handbook National Trust, WEEDeck Sainty and Associates

 

Updated: 18 Jul 2016