Asparagus fern Control Guide

Do's and don'ts of Asparagus fern control

Asparagus Fern

Do's

  • Get in early - large infestations are very difficult to eradicate;
  • Pull out or poison new infestations as soon as they are detected and before they flower;
  • For large infestations, plan your control program, as this will save time and money in the long-run;
  • Check an infestation regularly over several years in case of regrowth from remnants of the root system;
  • Follow-up control including hand-removal and/or herbicide where necessary;
  • Dispose of any removed material carefully - root material can survive being dried for long periods, and seeds should not be composted or mulched;
  • Use a dye marker with the herbicide to minimise missed plants and prevent over spraying.

Don'ts

  • Don't plant Asparagus fern as an ornamental in your garden;
  • Don't leave new infestations to establish - get in early and eradicate;
  • Don't rely on one attempt at removal - follow-up is essential to eradicate an infestation;
  • Don't let it seed;
  • Don't dump Asparagus fern material - rhizome and root material can re-sprout and form new infestations;
  • Don't compost or mulch root material as rhizome fragments can reshoot.

Spread of Asparagus Fern

  • Asparagus fern is spread by seed, as well as vegetatively via rhizomes and tubers.
  • Local spread of an infestation occurs when the expanding mat of rhizomes and tuberous roots send up new shoots. Long distance spread of seed occurs when birds eat the fruits and deposit the seeds substantial distances from the parent plant.
  • Seed can also be spread in mud on footwear and machinery and in water along drainage lines.
  • Dumping of garden rubbish containing Asparagus fern seeds or root fragments can also spread the weed. Earth-moving machinery such as backhoes and graders can break up the tuberous root mass and deposit tubers at other sites where they shoot from the rhizome.
  • Asparagus fern can establish even among healthy native vegetation where soil and litter is suitable.

Avoid the introduction of Asparagus fern

  • Many infestations of Asparagus fern derive from ornamental garden plantings.
  • Do not plant this declared weed in your garden. Encourage other gardeners to remove the weed if it is already present in their garden.
  • Never dump Asparagus fern material, or use the material for garden mulch as the weed can re-sprout from rhizome and root tuber material.
  • See the Washdown Guidelines for Weed and Disease Control for detailed information on how to wash-down equipment and personnel to reduce the chance of spreading asparagus fern.

Physical removal

  • Slashing the stems and leaves of Asparagus fern before late winter flowering may prevent fruit production, but will not eradicate an infestation.
  • Single Asparagus fern plants or small infestations can be carefully dug out and burned before they flower. Ensure that all the root system is removed to avoid regeneration from rhizomes and tubers. Destroy all material by burning or bagging and deep (>1 m depth) burial.
  • Physical removal of large Asparagus fern infestations is virtually impossible due to the extensive mats of tubers.

Burning

  • Fire can be used to assist in controlling larger infestations of Asparagus fern.
  • Burning in late summer and early autumn can remove all understorey vegetation and improve access for later spraying.
  • As well as improving the effectiveness of herbicide application, fire may help to destroy Asparagus fern seed and the dense tuber mat.
  • Always follow up burning with other control methods, such as hand removal of single plants and/or herbicide application.
  • Note: Great care is needed when using fire. Appropriate conditions, equipment and experienced personnel are essential. The landowner is responsible for ensuring that all planned burning can be contained and is conducted in a safe manner. Prior to any planned burn being undertaken, the landowner must inform all relevant authorities and obtain all relevant permits. The Tasmania Fire Service is the responsible authority for granting fire-permits.
  • Consultation with vegetation specialists is also recommended as fire can have both positive and negative effects on native vegetation. Timing, extent and heat of the fire all require consideration.

Chemical control

  • A number of herbicides are registered for use on Asparagus fern in Tasmania. See Herbicides for Asparagus Fern Control for more information.
  • Herbicides are best applied winter/early spring when Asparagus fern is actively growing.

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