It goes by quite a few names. Ground asparagus. Asparagus fern. Basket fern, Sprengeri’s fern, bush asparagus, emerald asparagus, Sprengeri cultivar, Variegata cultivar … But really only one description is needed. It’s a weed and it’s up to no good.
Ground asparagus is termed a “weed of national significance”, which means it’s one of the worst of the worst. It is invasive and has both environmental and economic impacts. Native to South Africa, this perennial plant with long, prickly stems was brought to these shores as an ornamental plant. It’s now found in parts of Queensland and thrives along the NSW coast as far south as Bateman’s Bay and particularly around Sydney, and it is not welcome.
Geraldene Dalby-Ball, general manager and principal ecologist at Dragonfly Environmental, the Avalon-based specialists in ecological restoration, says ground asparagus is good at crowding out native plants and reducing biodiversity.
“When children ask me, what’s a weed, the only real answer I can give is that it’s a greedy plant,” she says. “If we have all the original ingredients in a community we’re more likely to have resilience in times of change.”
Ground asparagus has the ability to survive dry periods, to re-establish itself if dumped as garden waste and can be spread by birds when they feed on the weed’s fruit and disperse the seed.
It can, however, be controlled with care and diligence, as this marvellous Pittwater Ecowarriers video demonstrates. It’s a good time to be on the hunt for it.