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Bridal creeper

Bridal creeper "leaves"

Bridal creeper flowers

Bridal creeper fruits

Bridal creeper in banksia

Asparagus densiflorus fruits

Asparagus plumosus fruits

Asparagus scandens flower

Asparagus scandens fruit

Asparagus scandens infestation

Wombat berry (L) & scrambling lily (R)

   


BOTANICAL NAME:

Asparagus asparagoides (previously Myrsiphyllum asparagoides)


Family:

Asparagaceae

Status:

Bridal creeper is declared noxious in class 4 throughout NSW (cannot be propagated, sold or knowingly distributed). It is also listed as a Weed of National Significance, as are other asparagus weeds.

Description

Bridal creeper is a scrambling small vine which forms dense mats over the ground and low shrubs, and can climb a few metres up into trees, if there are low branches to support it. The leaves are reduced to scales, but are replaced by broadly oval leaf-like flattened stems (cladodes) with numerous fine parallel veins and a pointed tip which are arranged alternately on the wiry stems. Flowers are tiny, greenish-white, and carried singly on short bent stalks. The fruit is a large (to 1cm) round berry which is red when ripe. The plants grow most strongly in late winter and spring, yellowing and dying back to the root system in the drier summer months.

preferred habitat and impacts

Bridal creeper prefers shady conditions and relatively high humidity and readily invades native vegetation. It is mostly a coastal weed but occasionally occurs further inland. It is most damaging in coastal scrub close to the sea, where it scrambles high into banksia trees, and also can be damaging in remnant grassy woodland in the farming areas. Seed is excreted by birds perching in remnant native trees in these areas, and the plant can smother the native grasses and herbs around the trees. It also invades shady exotic windbreaks. Dispersal of the seed by birds means it tends to be associated with trees.

As well as smothering plants by covering them and excluding light, the intense competition for soil moisture from its dense root system can exclude native plants, and the roots can dry the soil out and make it difficult to re-wet when rain falls.

Dispersal


Seed is spread by birds.

look-alikes

There are many other weeds in the asparagus family, but most have finely divided ferny foliage, such as Asparagus densiflorus and Asparagus plumosus. The most similar is one of the climbing asparagus ferns (Asparagus scandens) which has smaller orange berries. Its "leaves" are very much smaller and are more densely arranged on the branchlets. It is far less common on the south coast than bridal creeper, but can be just as damaging in native vegetation. It, and other asparagus weeds, are listed as Weeds of National Significance.
Two native climbers are more similar, wombat berry (Eustrephus latifolius) and scrambling lily (Geitonoplesium cymosum). Wombat berry has the most similar broad oval leaves, but they have a single prominent midrib (central vein) which is raised slightly on the lower leaf surface, not a large number of inconspicuous parallel veins. The leaves of wombat berry are also less glossy than those of bridal creeper, the flowers are larger and have a mauve tinge and the ripe berries are orange. Scrambling lily has quite a narrow leaf (less than 1cm wide) with the midrib raised on the upper surface, white flowers and black berries. Both are quite common small wiry vines in forest on the coast.

control

Digging out bridal creeper can be difficult because of the mass of roots and starchy storage organs, but small plants can be removed this way. Spot spraying with herbicide can be effective, but will have to be repeated over several seasons to eliminate the plants. Since the plant often grows among native vegetation care would need to be taken to avoid spray drift onto native plants.

Since about 2002 two biological control agents have been released at many points on the south coast, a rust fungus and a leaf hopper. The rust fungus has proven very effective in areas where humidity is high and in wet spring seasons. It has converted many thriving infestations to a curtain of dead material in quite a short period. Plants recover to some extent in following seasons, particularly if weather conditions are less favourable for the fungus, but while severely infected they are unable to produce seed and it is to be hoped that this biological control will keep infestations to a level where the weed becomes less of a threat to native species.

It is relatively easy to spread this fungus. A good armful of affected plants is collected in a large container and shaken up in water. The water is then decanted and sprayed over uninfected plants, preferably during cool humid conditions, such as late in the day.


Plants affected by the rust fungus show yellowed patches on the leaves, with raised orange patches on the leaf underside.  Plants affected by leaf hoppers have white patches in the leaves.