Rust control for bridal creeper
14 September 2022
Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu is calling on landholders to be on the front foot to help control the highly invasive bridal creeper, and the control method is not what you think.
Bridal creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) is a herbaceous climber and has devastating effects in bushland, where it smothers native vegetation. It can be identified by hairless, twining stems, and shiny oval pale green cladodes resembling leaves. It has tiny white flowers in spring followed by round, orange-red berries.
In 2000, a biological control agent called ‘bridal creeper rust fungus’ was released. It infects leaves and stems drawing on the plant’s nutrients and stunting its growth. The rust can be identified by yellow/orange blotched leaves (cladodes) and orange spores on the back of leaves.
Bridal creeper rust fungus is now widespread throughout the southern parts of Australia, but prior to its release, bridal creeper would grow high into the canopy of shrubs and small trees, smothering and weighing them down, blocking out light and limiting regeneration. At scale, this had detrimental effects on native vegetation.
There are ways we can help spread the fungus to unaffected bridal creeper plants, and effectively minimise the risk it poses.
Landscape Officer Lisa Blake said, “The best way to relocate the rust is to make ‘spore-water’ and to spray this onto uninfected bridal creeper.
“Just grab a large bunch of infected leaves and swish them around in a bucket of rain water to loosen the spores. Use a kitchen sieve to remove the plant material and then pour the spore-water into a clean spray bottle.
“If you don’t have access to rainwater, you can also fill a bucket with tap water and leave the vegetation submerged for a few days to let the chlorine dissipate.”
Application is best after rain, but not directly before, as it can wash the solution off, making it ineffective.
Landscape Officer Mark Fagan added, “Bridal creeper rust fungus will only infect bridal creeper, there is no off-target damage.”
“More comprehensive control of bridal creeper is required in some cases and Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu can advise on the best ways to manage it for your situation.
“This is a really difficult weed to control that requires good planning so you can control it in manageable areas. The red berries are spread by birds so doing your best to stop berries developing is a great start.”
“Keep an eye out for the bridal creeper leafhopper too. This sucking insect will cause leaves to whiten and leaves to drop, and is a useful beneficial insect in the fight against bridal creeper.”
Contact Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu for further advice and information about pest plants on 8391 7500 or visit our pest plants page.