Asparagus Fern Moreton Island

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Asparagus Fern Moreton Island

Because Moreton is an island 40km off the coast of Brisbane, it is somewhat protected from invading species of plants and animals – but of course not immune! Invading pest species of weeds and the potential threat of cane toads (read more about how we tackle those here) are a serious problem and the island relies heavily on volunteer programs to control the influx. Special thanks to Greg Curtis for the article below which describes their recent attempt at removing one of the threats.

In response to escalating problems of weed infestation in the Moreton Island townships, and concerns by NPWS of encroachment into the National Park, the first Bulwer Weeding Weekend was held on December 2-4, 2016. Organized by the Moreton Island Protection Committee, with student volunteers from Griffith University Environmental Science and University of Queensland Doctors for the Environment, enthusiastic workers took to the northern block of Bulwer – north of the Glamping, about Castaways and the vacant state land on Marsh Street to Moreton Street.

Asparagus fern on moreton island
Photo courtesy of Griffith University

The Target

Asparagus Fern on Moreton Island is a serious threat to native bush land and rapidly becomes the dominant vegetation. Displacing native habitat and wildlife, seeds from it’s berries are spread by fruit eating birds. It is a Restrictive Invasive Plant under The Biosecurity Act 2014, which requires all persons to take steps to control the plant and not release it into the environment (GBO – General Biosecurity Obligation).The main target weed was Asparagus Fern (Asparagus Aethiopicus), originally brought into Australia from South Africa by the nursery industry as a garden plant. Infestations have become so severe in sandy soils in many parts of Australia, particularly at Noosa-Sunshine-Sunrise Beach, the Point Lookout headlands, and Burleigh Heads National Park, that it has become difficult to control.

moreton island asparagus fern
Photo courtesy of Griffith University

What it looks like

Asparagus Fern has low sprawling green, prickly arching above ground running stems to 2 meters plus. They flower into green to red berries 5-8mm across, and have an extensive underground weed mat with grape-like tubers. Able to withstand long periods of dry weather, Asparagus Fern grows rapidly in leaf litter.

Moreton Island Asparagus Fern
Photo courtesy of Griffith University

 

How we manage it

The best method of control is to snip off flowering and fruiting runners to stop seeds spreading, dig out the underground grapes and weed mat totally to prevent regrowth – and burn. Be careful with disposal as any part of the weed mat or berries can regrow.Council treatment in our target area by poison or herbicide appeared unsuccessful. Treated runners had died, but the underground weed mat was still flourishing with new runners growing. All weeds were dug out by hand. In total 81 bags of Asparagus Fern, 1 bag of Prickly Pear, and 1 bag of Nightshsde, Cobbler’s Peg and Lantana were filled and taken to the Green Waste Section of Bulwer Waste Transfer Station to be burnt.

Moreton Island Asparagus Fern
Photo courtesy of Griffith University

How you can help

The next Bulwer Weeding Weekend is scheduled for March 18/19. Any residents, members of the public or students who would like to assist are welcome. Phone Greg Curtis on 0427 754 192.

Special thanks to

Thanks should go to Dr. Peter Davey of Griffith University; NPWS for offering free volunteer camping at Comboyuro Point Campground; Tangalooma Resort for free student ferry travel under their Environmental Fund; Moreton Island Adventures for reduced student volunteer fares; and Virginia-Nundah Fishing Club for special price student accommodation.

moreton island asparagus fern
Photo courtesy of Griffith University