BRIDAL CREEPER (Asparagus asparagoides)
A member of the Asparagus family, Bridal creeper is a highly invasive weed, introduced as a garden plant in the 1870’s. Its common name derives from its old popularity in floral arrangements and wedding bouquets.
In its native South Africa, Bridal Creeper was prevented from being a problem by a number of natural enemies. But not so in Australia. Bridal Creeper is very much at home here in the south west. It is a weed of creek lines, the Blackwood River, edges of bushland and our gardens. It climbs over native vegetation, smothering it, preventing understorey plants from growing and creating a monoculture of foreign plants that do not provide for the specialised needs of our local fauna.
It also poses a threat to primary production, especially orchards.
Bridal Creeper is spread by birds, foxes and rabbits:
Birds feast on its pea sized green berries as they ripen to bright red and excrete them at perch sites.
Rabbits and foxes also eat the fleshy fruit and disperse seeds.
Bridal Creeper is a perennial plant. Its above ground foliage dies down in the heat of late spring and summer, but the plant is kept alive by its large underground mass of rhizomes and tubers which provide the powerhouse for rapid shoot growth with first rains in autumn. Unseasonal summer rain can also trigger early growth and give it a head start. It is difficult to manually remove all tubers, and every one of them can produce new plants. Bridal Creeper can survive fire, frost and drought and thrive in a range of soil types.
A small patch of Bridal Creeper can produce 1000 berries per square metre, with each plump berry containing up to four black seeds!
Leaves showing Bridal Creeper Rust damage in Bridgetown in July 2016.
BRIDAL CREEPER RUST FUNGUS
The rust fungus, which is a natural control in South Africa, was approved for release Australia in 2000.
It damages leaves and stems causing nutrients to be diverted away from healthy plant tissue and impacts energy reserves stored in underground tubers.
The rust also causes leaves to drop prematurely and limits the number of fruit produced.
The rust is visible on plants from early autumn and is spread during winter by wind borne spores.
Infected leaves can be harvested and introduced to other patches of Bridal Creeper.