Article by Rhea Phelan, vector and pest plant officer, Sunshine Coast Council
Let’s talk about the asparagus that you don’t want in your garden!
Have you seen these invasive asparagus plants? Unlike their popular relative the edible asparagus (Asparagus officinalis), these asparagus species are not ones you want to grow in your garden! These problem asparagus ferns, include basket or ground asparagus (Asparagus aethiopicus and Asparagus scandens), climbing asparagus fern (Asparagus africanus and Asparagus plumosus), bridal creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) and sicklethorn (Asparagus falcatus).
Some of these plants were once very popular garden ornamentals and have been spread by birds and dumped garden waste into bushlands and Sunshine Coast’s unique coastal ecosystems. This has done significant damage. Areas once covered with a variety of flowering native plants such as coastal banksias, hovea, melaleuca and casuarina's are now a carpet of basket asparagus fern. Others were luckily a little less popular with gardeners and as a result are not commonly found on the Sunshine Coast. These ones are very high on the priority list for management under the Biosecurity Act 2014 and the Sunshine Coast Council local government area biosecurity plan 2017.
Make sure you identify the invasive asparagus ferns correctly before you take them out as there is a native asparagus fern, asparagus racemosus, which is a beneficial habitat plant and a good plant to have in your garden. The main difference between the native asparagus and the invasive species are that the native one has longer leaflets (around 3cm long). Here is a great guide to help you identify any asparagus ferns you might have at your place. If you have any of these invasive asparagus ferns, get started today and manage them at your place to help protect our bushland, tiny tree gliders and native birds.
The best way to control the climbing asparagus ferns is to cut them at the base and apply herbicide to the stumps or dig them out making sure to take out all the underground root. Ground asparagus fern and regrowth can be treated by foliar spray. To see which herbicides are registered for use checkout the fact sheet on invasive asparagus ferns. If you find bridal creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) on your property, please report it to council or Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.