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Asparagus (genus)


Asparagus is a genus in the plant family Asparagaceae, subfamily Asparagoideae.[1] It comprises up to 300 species. Mostly are evergreen long-lived perennial plants growing from the understory as lianas, bushes or climbing plants. The most well-known species is the edible Asparagus officinalis, commonly referred to as just asparagus. Other members of the genus are grown as ornamental plants.



The genus includes a variety of living forms, occurring from rainforest to semi-desert habitats; many are climbing plants. The differences among them came from the communities and ecosystems in which they occur, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that keep them functioning, yet ever changing and adapting. Most are dispersed by birds.[citation needed]

Species such as Asparagus setaceus are finely branched and are misleadingly known as "asparagus fern". The most popular ornamental species are Asparagus plumosus, Asparagus densiflorus, and Asparagus sprengeri.

In the Macaronesian Islands, several species (Asparagus umbellatus, Asparagus scoparius, etc.) grow in moist laurel forest habitat, and preserve the original form of a leafy vine. In the drier Mediterranean climate the asparagus genus evolved in the Tertiary into thorny, drought-adapted species.[citation needed]

Many species, particularly from Africa, were once included in separate genera such as Protasparagus and Myrsiphyllum. However, partly in response to the implications of the discovery of new species, those genera have been reunited under Asparagus.[2] Species in this genus vary in their appearance, from unarmed herbs to wiry, woody climbers with formidable hooked spines that earn them vernacular names such as "cat thorn" and "wag 'n bietjie" (literally "wait a bit").[3] Most species have photosynthetic flattened stems, called phylloclades, instead of true leaves. Asparagus officinalis, Asparagus schoberioides, and Asparagus cochinchinensis are dioecious species, with male and female flowers on separate plants.

Selected species

Pests and diseases

Invasive species

A. asparagoides, known as bridal creeper, is a problematic weed in southern Australia.[4][5]

A. asparagoide, A. densiflorus and A. scandens are listed on the New Zealand National Pest Plant Accord since they are invasive plants.


  1. ^ Chase, M.W.; Reveal, J.L. & Fay, M.F. (2009), "A subfamilial classification for the expanded asparagalean families Amaryllidaceae, Asparagaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161 (2): 132–136, doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00999.x 
  2. ^ Malcomber, S. T. Demissew, Sebsebe; "The Status of Protasparagus and Myrsiphyllum in the Asparagaceae", Kew Bulletin Vol. 48, No. 1 (1993), pp. 63-78
  3. ^ Marloth, Rudolf. “The Flora of South Africa” 1932 Pub. Capetown: Darter Bros. London: Wheldon & Wesley.
  4. ^ "bridal creeper". weed of the month. CRC weed management. Archived from the original on 2005-12-15. Retrieved 2006-04-30. 
  5. ^ "Bridal creeper, Asparagus asparagoides". CSIRO Division of Entomology. Retrieved 2006-04-30. 


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