Asparagus fern

Native to southern Africa, asparagus fern is a twining environmental weed. Infestations are scattered widely around Australia, from Albany, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Lord Howe Island. In New Zealand it is the most damaging and widespread of all the asparagus weeds.

All weedy species of asparagus ferns are listed as Weeds of National Significance.

Asparagus fern is a restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Asparagus scandens

Other names

  • Snake feather


  • Fern with long, flat branching thorn-less stems, twining up to 3m.
  • Leaves are lance-shaped, flat with distinct midrib, dark green 5-15mm long, occurs in groups of 3.
  • Flowers are small, white or pinkish white, solitary or in 2-3 per axil on short stalks.
  • Fleshy, globular fruits up to 5-7mm in diameter.
  • Fruits ripen from green to orange-red, containing 1 black seed.
  • Roots are fibrous with short rhizomes, often with narrow tubers, stems arise from a small central crown.


  • Sub-tropical to temperate high rainfall regions.
  • Invades shaded woodland, heathland, sclerophyll forest, cool rainforest, riparian and coastal habitats and disturbed areas.


  • Recorded in South East Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Usually flowers May-October.
  • Fruit appears from September and can remain until next flowering.
  • Germinates September-February.



  • Becomes dominant ground cover, displacing native plants, even in undisturbed systems.

How it is spread

  • Spread by fruit-eating birds, foxes, rabbits.


Physical control

  • Remove berries, seeds and entire crown of underground stem with sharp knife to prevent regrowth.
  • Follow up to control seedling germination and regrowth from missed tubers.

Herbicide control

  • Herbicide control is effective.
  • Use spot spray and cut-stump methods.

See the Asparagus fern fact sheet (PDF, 1.5MB) for herbicide control and application rates.

Biological control

  • No known biological control agent.

Legal requirements

  • Asparagus fern is a restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • At a local level, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Further information