Weeds in Australia

Managing weeds

Case Study: Beating Bridal Creeper using its own worst enemies

Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) is one of southern Australia's worst weeds and a Weed of National Significance. It invades and smothers native vegetation and threatens rare species. Conventional control methods using herbicides and physical removal are difficult and expensive to implement.

Efforts to find biological control agents started in 1998, when researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) travelled to South Africa to investigate Bridal Creeper in its native range. Three potential agents were identified and carefully tested to confirm that they were host-specific and safe for release: the Leafhopper Zygina spp., the Rust Fungus Puccinia myrsiphylli and the Leaf Beetle Crioceris spp.

Since 2002, the CSIRO, in collaboration with state agencies, has taken a leading role in the national distribution of Leafhoppers and Rust Fungus. The community has enthusiastically embraced the biological control methods and established over 2000 release sites.

Schools across the country have been involved in rearing and releasing Leafhoppers on local infestations, while community groups have created their own innovative methods to redistribute the rust spores from nursery sites. These community efforts are significantly aiding the natural spread of the agents. The biological control of Bridal Creeper has been so successful that emphasis has started to shift to managing regeneration of native vegetation on previously infested sites.