(Photos: E. Cousins; growth habit, flower cluster; Cape Jervis)
Come spring, you will see this little shrub flowering freely around Cape Jervis. It has 1 cm long blue green leaves, which are arranged very symmetrically around the many stems. The tiny, creamy-white flowers are arranged in balls about 3cm wide, at the end of those stems … you can see how many little flowers there can be in a flower cluster in the second photo above. Each little flower has 4 petals and yellow-tipped stamens. Under each cluster you will find four leaves (called floral leaves) which are slightly larger than the stem leaves; the inner two should have hairy edges. So look for tidy little shrubs covered in white this spring as you walk around Cape Jervis, and see if you can identify this riceflower.
COMMON BRIDAL CREEPER
This creeper smothers native plants. Dormant over our dry summers, it sends out long, vigorous, twining stems after autumn rains. These form a thick, dense mat spreading over shrubs and up trees. The root system consists of a central stem, with many tubers attached. Like the leaves and stems above ground, these underground tubers also form a thick mat. In fact, the root system can be up to 90% of the plant’s total mass.1 So while the creeper is preventing sunlight reaching its hosts above ground, the root system is preventing root growth of plants and seedlings below ground. The green leaves appear in groups on short side branches on the long stems. White flowers in spring are followed by berries which ripen to red. These contain black seeds… one plant can produce thousands. Birds feed on the berries, and excrete the seeds elsewhere, helping the plant spread. Biological controls (rust fungus and beetles) are often used to limit the spread of this pest; digging doesn’t guarantee removal of all the tubers. For more information see the PIRSA fact sheet http://pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/145594/Fact_Sheet_BridalCreeper.pdf
1 Bridal creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) weed management guide, at http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/weeds/publications/guidelines/wons/a-asparagoides.html