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FLIP

FLIP: Florida Invasive Plants

Asparagus aethiopicus

Common Name(s): Sprenger's asparagus-fern

Origin

South Africa.

Ecological Impact

Escaped from cultivation (Long and Lakela 1971, Wunderlin 1982) displacing native ground cover and understory shrubs (Austin et al. 1992). In Florida, documented as invading xeric hammocks, scrub, coastal dunes, coastal berms, cabbage palm hammocks, upland mixed forests, and ruderal communities. Sprenger's asparagus-fern is listed as a Category I invasive by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.

Description

Evergreen perennial herb from a crown of tuberous roots, to 60 cm (2 ft) in height, with stems stiff or spreading-arching to 2 m (6 ft) long. Larger branches usually bearing minute axillary spines. Branchlets (cladophylls) flat, needlelike, light to bright green, to 2.5 cm (1 in) long, clustered at branch nodes..

Identification Tips

Not a fern. Leaves tiny, scale-like, at bases of branchlets. Flowers small, white or pinkish white, with 3 petals and 3 sepals, and fragrant. Fruit a bright red berry about 8 mm (½ inch) in diameter; 3 seeds per fruit.

History

A widely planted ground cover and potted plant that escaped from cultivation.

Range

All of central and south Florida.

Management Strategies

Do not plant. Remove existing plantings and potted plants before seeds can be dispersed by birds. Cut and apply herbicide. Remove roots from ground.

Photos

Most photos courtesy of the Atlas of Florida Plants; click for additional plant details.

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Florida Invasive Plants