Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from Africa, Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides), a Weed of National Significance, is a long lived highly invasive scrambling herb / vine that is an environmental weed, destroying large areas of native vegetation in southern Australia.
  • It is easily spread by birds who eat the fruits dispersing viable seeds in dropping up to several kilometres away from the parent plant.
  • Forms dense impenetrable thickets smothers other plants, producing a profusion of below ground rhizomes and tubers which suppresses other ground flora and reduces available soil moisture and nutrients, excluding desirable species, also impacting native animals.
  • The extensive root system and prolific seed production makes control difficult with herbicides and manual removal the most effective methods but they are costly and labour intensive and not feasible in many areas.
  • Manual removal should remove all underground rhizome that are capable of producing new plants.
  • Requires very long-term commitment over decades, with repeated control action and monitoring requiring an integrated management strategy.
  • All control programs should aim to reduce the amount of seed produced, with prevention the most cost-effective form of weed control.
  • Biological control is regarded as a preferred management option for many infestations of Bridal Creeper.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) is a climbing soft herb or vine to 3 m, arising from a rhizome attached to tuberous roots. The above ground portion can die back annually or when conditions are unfavourable. The "leaves", (called cladodes are not true leaves but flattened stems that look and function like leaves). Cladodes arise from the base of the true leaves, which are reduced to scales. The cladodes are sessile (stalkless), dull to glossy green, ovate (egg-shaped) to broadly lanceolate (shaped like the head of a lance), 10-70 mm long, 4-30 mm wide and have delicate parallel venation with no apparent midrib.

The root system forms dense underground clumps of underground mats (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992; Vivian-Smith & Grimshaw 2006). The below ground mats are rhizomes (underground stems or potential growing points) attached to fleshy tubers (storage organs). The clumps of underground stems are capable of vegetative reproduction, producing new stems and plants if the above ground (stems and leaves) are removed or die back in unfavourable conditions, like a bulb does. The main roots supply water and nutrients to the plant, and swollen fleshy white tubers only act as an underground storage systems for the plant.  Neither roots or tubers are not capable of producing new stems or plants. However, if the tubers are attached to rhizomes, the rhizomes can grow into new plants with the tubers acting as energy for the new plant. The tubers help the plant survive in harsh unfavourable growing conditions over long periods of time. Tubers are roughly ovoid in shape and 25-40 mm long and 8-20 mm wide. The root system can be dense extending 100-200 mm below ground, up to 200-400 mm long or more, initially vertical but then horizontal somewhat below along the soil surface forming dense impenetrable mats.

The flowers are white to pale green, scented, small to 8–9 mm wide, bisexual (with male and female parts in one flower), solitary in axils (occur individually in 'leaf stalk). Stamens with yellow anthers (pollen producing structures) are shorter than the perianth (flowering tube).

The fruit is a bright round red fleshy berry. Each fruit normally produces 1-4 up ,shiny black seeds (CRC 2003), but occasionally with more to 10 seeds per fruit, 3-4 mm long. It reproduces both by seed and vegetatively from rhizomes (underground stems).

Recognition: This species can normally be recognised by the combination of the following characters;  climbing soft green leaves and stem; individual pale flowers in leaf axils; red round small fruit.

For further information and assistance with identification of Bridal Creeper contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

White to pale green.

Growth form (weed type/habit)

Vine, Herb

Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Bridal Creeper grows in cool to warm-temperate area extending to sub-tropical regions, preferring fertile, well-drained soils of light texture. It was often grown as an ornamental, and now occurs as a weed along roadsides, in town allotments, orchards and citrus groves, waste places and disturbed scrubland close to habitation. Bridal Creeper is frost tolerant and its perennial root system enables it to survive summer drought (CRC 2003).

Bridal Creeper invades dry coastal vegetation, heathland and heathy woodland, mallee shrubland, lowland grassland and grassy woodland, dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, damp sclerophyll forest, riparian vegetation, rock outcrop vegetation, and warm temperate rainforest (CRC 2003; Victorian Resources Online 2007). It forms dense infestations becoming the dominate plant species over time.

Are there similar species?

The native species Wombat Berry (Eustrephus latifolius) and Scrambling Lily (Geitonoplesium cymosum), have adult foliage with parallel venation similar to Bridal Creeper. Wombat Berry and Scrambling Lily both have true leaves rather than reduced leaves at the base of the leaf-like cladodes. Wombat Berry can be further distinguished by having a yellow to orange fleshy capsular fruit while both Bridal Creeper and Scrambling Lily have fleshy berries. Bridal Creeper has red fruit when ripe whereas Scrambling Lily has black fruit (Navie 2004; Connors 2007, pers. comm.).

The Western Cape form of Asparagus aspargoidies is very similar looking, and this is most likely another species that is unaffected by the leaf rust (Puccinia myrsipyllii).  The western cape form has sightly larger leaves and bigger tubers that or grouped like a bunch of grapes in the soil not forming cylindrical long chains of tuber like the common form of Bridal Creeper.

For information on distinguishing the two forms of Bridal Creeper, see the Asparagus Weeds Best Practice Management Manual (available at https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/-/media/OEH/Corporate-Site/Documents/Animals-and-plants/Pests-and-weeds/asparagus-weeds-management-manual-130486.pdf).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) is a Weed of National Significance. It is regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spread, and economic and environmental impacts (CRC 2003). it is an invasive soft herb or vine that forms dense impenetrable thickets excluding desirable species

Agriculture: Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) is an occasional problematic agricultural weed. Loss to primary industries (e.g. by shading citrus and avocado trees and interfering with fruit picking), especially in the Murray River irrigation area, are known (CRC 2003).

Native ecosystems:  Bridal Creeper is a highly invasive environmental weed and unlike most environmental weeds can establish in undisturbed native vegetation. The climbing stems of Bridal Creeper form a dense canopy which smothers other vegetation, and the masses of underground roots can extend to form a thick, dense mat which destroys under-storey plants and often prevents seedling establishment (Wills 1999; CRC 2003), reduces available soil moisture and nutrients impacting native animals. Rare native plants are threatened with extinction by Bridal Creeper (CRC 2003), and a profusion of rhizomes and tubers below ground which suppresses other ground flora and It is able to tolerate dry periods due to its well developed rhizomes and numerous tubers (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992; Le Cussan 2006; Vivian-Smith & Grimshaw 2006).

Urban areas: Grows on urban fringes and edges, on abandoned or degraded land, that further spread beyond in to native vegetation.

How does it spread?

Bridal Creeper plants can produce more than 1000 berries per square metre, producing many more seeds. Birds feed on the berries and later excrete the seeds at perch sites, usually within 100 m of source plants, but seeds can be spread several kilometres away. However, seed dispersed by birds has helped spread the weed along roadsides and into native vegetation patches further afield. Rabbits and foxes also eat fruit and disperse seeds (CRC 2003).

The plant can spread as the root system slowly expands in area. Movement of soil containing roots (e.g. by grading) can spread plants further. Dumping of garden rubbish containing Bridal Creeper seeds or roots also spreads the weed (CRC 2003).

What is its history in Australia?

Bridal Creeper was introduced into Australia as a garden plant during the 1870s and was first recorded in a nursery catalogue in 1857 (Wills 1999). It proved popular in floral arrangements, in particular bridal bouquets, giving rise to its common name, and also as a plant for hanging baskets (CRC 2003; Wills 1999). First recorded in Victoria in 1932, and in South Australia in 1934 (AVH 2020).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Control of Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) is possible by chemical, mechanical means and biological control. However, when mature flowering plants and rhizomes (underground growing points) are removed seedling may germinate from the soil seed bank and follow-up is critical. Integrated control methods combining techniques, with long term follow-up is advised for success. Preventing spread to new areas by animals is difficult, so preventing seed set is important and the best form of control. When controlling Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) the underground rhizome, need to be removed or comprehensively killed as re-growth can occur. Large plants with extensive root systems and underground rhizomes can and will survive herbicide application as some rhizomes are not  killed and follow-up may be required.

Chemical control: Herbicides have been the most effective method of control. However, because Bridal Creeper often grows in areas of native vegetation, it is particularly important to avoid contact with desirable plants or soil near tree root zones. Isolated plants can be treated with a recommended herbicide applied by spot spraying. As infestations become larger, a strategically staged approach for removal is advisable to ensure that treated areas are not re-infested (CRC 2003). In citrus and avocado orchards it is difficult to spray Bridal Creeper entwined in the leaves of trees. Pruning lower limbs to provide access underneath trees, a practice known as 'skirting', enables spot spraying with a recommended herbicide. Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au .

Non-chemical control: Physical control: Physical removal is not effective unless all the rhizomes are dug up and destroyed. This may be possible for new, small infestations or as a follow-up after several years of herbicide control of a larger infestation. Slashing the stems and leaves may prevent fruit production and slowly deplete root reserves but it will not eradicate an infestation (CRC 2003). Small infestations can be controlled by hand pulling where practical.

Hand pulling can only be used for small plants and infestation. The rhizomes (main growing points at the top of the soil where the stem emerge) should be removed when hand pulling.  If the plant breaks leaving any or all the rhizome, plants will immediately regrow if conditions allow. 

Mechanical control: However, for large dense infestations where little to no native plants remain, mechanical removal of above ground parts parts may help.

Competition and management: Grazing can provide some control of Bridal Creeper. Tamar Wallabies on Garden Island in Western Australia have successfully kept it at low levels there, and sheep grazing may be an option to control it under trees in remnant vegetation, woodlots and shelterbelts (CRC 2003).

Disposal: When removing material off-site, rhizomes can regrow and re-shoot if not killed. Any rhizomes that come in to contact with the ground, on or off site, will re-shoot. Material can be composted or solarised and the same methods should be used for the fruits containing seeds, as these can germinate and grow in to new plants. If the plant is being removed from gardens, dispose of it through local government kerbside collection or tip facilities. Fruiting shoot material should be bagged immediately to avoid it being dropped or dispersed by birds. Root material (which can survive being dried for long periods) and seeds should not be composted or mulched (CRC 2003).

Fire: Fire can also be useful in reducing above ground biomass of larger infestations. In winter-rainfall areas, Bridal Creeper often emerges before the first autumn rains so herbicides may be applied before post-fire regeneration of native vegetation. As well as improving the effectiveness of herbicide application, fire may help to destroy Bridal Creeper seed and the dense tuber mat. However, use of fire requires permission from government authorities and its frequent use may endanger the survival of many native plant populations (CRC 2003).

Fires in late summer and early autumn can remove all under-storey vegetation and improve access for later spraying. If fire is used, regrowth should be treated carefully with herbicide to limit above-ground growth and further reduce the stored root reserves. Infestations should be monitored regularly and over several years because of the probability of regrowth from remnants of the root system. Regularly check for new incursions, carefully removing them or treating them with herbicide, as necessary. For new or small infestations hand digging of roots may be an appropriate follow-up technique (CRC 2003).

Biological control: Effective treatment of Bridal Creeper with herbicides or manual removal is expensive and labour intensive. These control methods are not feasible in many areas because of the size and inaccessibility of infestations. Biological control is viewed as a preferred management option for Bridal Creeper infestations of this type (Wills 1999). There are three biological control agents that have been released in Australia. However, it will take many years for the biological control agents to reduce the density of Bridal Creeper due to the huge reserves stored underground in tubers (CRC 2003). An effective biological control agent on Bridal Creeper is the rust (Puccinia myrsiphyllii), that attacks leaves and stems that can have a major impact on the levels of reserves in the tubers, but the rust is not effective on the Wester Cape Form. There is also a leafhopper, a sap sucking insect that feeds on the photosynthetic cells causing them to turn white, and a leaf beetle that feeds exclusivly on the young expanding new tissues of leaves and shoot tips therefore reducing biomass and fruit production.

For further information see the Asparagus Weeds Best Practice Management Manual (available at https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/-/media/OEH/Corporate-Site/Documents/Animals-and-plants/Pests-and-weeds/asparagus-weeds-management-manual-130486.pdf ).

Does it have a biological control agent?

YES. Three biocontrol agents released: an undescribed Erythroneurini leafhopper, a rust fungus (Puccinia myrsiphylli), and a leaf beetle (Crioceris sp.) (Harvey,  et al 2023).

When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Seeds germinate in autumn and winter in leaf litter and at soil depths of up to 100 mm. Buried seed that does not germinate rots within two years, while seeds on the soil surface may be viable for at least three years. Compared to many other weeds, Bridal Creeper has a short-lived seedbank (CRC 2003). Bridal Creeper plants take at least three years to reach flowering size, the flowers appearing along the length of the shoots in August and September (CRC 2003). Shoots of established Bridal Creeper typically emerge from the soil in autumn but earlier emergence can occur in years of high summer rainfall.

The green berries turn red in late spring to early summer (CRC 2003). There can be large differences in fruit production between years and sites. Early autumn rains allow a longer growing season, which favours high fruit production. The amount of fruit set is significantly greater where shoots are able to grow vertically by climbing up shrubs and trees, and less where the plants are heavily shaded, suffer water stress or where there is a high level of competition between shoots (i.e. older, dense infestations) (CRC 2003).

Shoots (above ground stems and leaves) may be present year round in warmer areas which normally have summer rains or are under irrigation. In cooler areas above ground growth dies back in late spring – early summer as temperatures rise and soils become dry, leaves turn yellow and fall and stems die back in (CRC 2003).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Bridal Creeper is a weed of southern Australia, widespread in southwestern Western Australia and the coastal regions further east. It is absent from the Nullarbor Plain but is present in southern South Australia, widespread throughout the Eyre, York and Fleurieu Peninsulas, stretching through the Murray Mallee and the south-east regions into Victoria, where it is widespread throughout the entire state. It is of scattered distribution in inland New South Wales but most common along the southern and central coastal regions.

Scattered populations have been recorded along the northern and eastern coastal regions of Tasmania, as well as some of the Bass Strait islands. It is also recorded from Lord Howe Island.

Herbarium collections have also been made from some of the cooler areas of south-east Queensland around Warwick, Toowoomba and Killarney (CRC 2003; Navie 2004; AVH 2007).

Where does it originate?

Bridal Creeper is native to Cape province, Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal regions of South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Northern Provinces, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe (POWO 2020). As well as being naturalised in Australia it is also naturalised in southern Europe, New Zealand, western United States and the islands of the north Atlantic ocean collectively known as Macaronesia (USDA 2007).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?

Declared in all States and Territories

Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Asparagus asparagoides

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Asparagus asparagoides (L.) W.Wight
  • Asparagus medeoloides (L.f.) Thunb.
  • Dracaena medeoloides L.f.
  • Elachanthera sewelliae F.Muell.
  • Luzuriaga sewelliae (F.Muell.) K.Krause
  • Medeola asparagoides L.
  • Myrsiphyllum asparagoides (L.) Willd.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

  • Bridal Creeper
  • Bridal Veil Creeper (also common name for Asparagus declinatus)
  • Smilax
  • Florist's Smilax
  • Smilax Asparagus
  • Gnarboola (South Africa)
  • Narbas (South Africa)
  • Krulkransie (South Africa)
  • African Asparagus Fern (USA)

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