Asparagus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Asparagoideae. It comprises up to 300 species. Most are evergreen long-lived perennial plants growing from the understory as lianas, bushes or climbing plants. The best-known species is the edible Asparagus officinalis, commonly referred to as just asparagus. Some other members of the genus, such as Asparagus densiflorus, 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.
In the Macaronesian Islands, several species (such as Asparagus umbellatus and Asparagus scoparius) 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. Root tubers are storage organs developed by Asparagus spp. and are a valuable source of moisture and nutrition for species growing under drought conditions.
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. 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"). 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.
- Asparagus acutifolius
- Asparagus aethiopicus (= Asparagus sprengeri, Protasparagus aethiopicus) – ground asparagus, asparagus fern, (S. Afr.) emerald fern, basket asparagus
- Asparagus aethiopicus 'Sprengeri' – Sprenger's asparagus
- Asparagus africanus (= Protasparagus africanus) – African asparagus
- Asparagus asparagoides ( = Myrsiphyllum asparagoides) – smilax, African asparagus fern, (Austr.) bridal creeper
- Asparagus cochinchinensis – Tian men dong (天門冬) in Chinese, of which the tubers are used as a kind of herb in traditional Chinese medicine.
- Asparagus declinatus – foxtail asparagus fern, (Austr.) bridal veil
- Asparagus capensis
- Asparagus curillus – Himalayas
- Asparagus densiflorus (= Protasparagus densiflorus)
- Asparagus falcatus – large forest sicklethorn of southern Africa
- Asparagus fallax – esparraguera de monteverde. Macaronesian native flora.
- Asparagus flagellaris
- Asparagus horridus – Mediterranean, Arabian Peninsula, Macaronesia.
- Asparagus laricinus – katbos
- Asparagus lignosus
- Asparagus macowanii (= Protasparagus macowanii)
- Asparagus maritimus
- Asparagus nesiotes – esparraguera majorera. Macaronesian native flora.
- Asparagus officinalis – asparagus
- Asparagus officinalis subsp. officinalis – garden asparagus
- Asparagus officinalis subsp. prostratus
- Asparagus pastorianus – esparraguera espinablanca. Macaronesian native flora.
- Asparagus persicus
- Asparagus racemosus
- Asparagus rubicundus
- Asparagus scandens – krulkransie of the Western Cape, South Africa
- Asparagus schoberioides
- Asparagus scoparius – esparragón raboburro. Macaronesian native flora.
- Asparagus setaceus (= Protasparagus setaceus, A. plumosus) – lace fern, asparagus fern, florist's fern, (Austr.) climbing asparagus
- Asparagus tenuifolius
- Asparagus umbellatus – esparraguera común. Macaronesian native flora.
- Asparagus vaginellatus Bojer ex Baker
- Asparagus virgatus
Pests and diseases
- Asparagus beetle (Crioceris asparagi)
- Spotted asparagus beetle (Crioceris duodecimpunctata)
- Asparagus miner (Ophiomyia simplex), a leaf-mining fly
- Asparagus fern caterpillar, also known as beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua).
- Asparagus fly (Platyparaea poeciloptera), a fruit fly
- Fusarium root and crown rot, caused by two species of fungi, Fusarium monoliforme and Fusarium oxysporium asparagi
- Asparagus rust, caused by the fungus Puccinia asparagi
- Botrytis blight, caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea
- The larvae of some Lepidoptera species have been recorded feeding on Asparagus. These include Coleophora lineapulvella, ghost moth, the nutmeg, small fan-footed wave, and turnip moth
- Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
- 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
- Malcomber, S. T. Demissew, Sebsebe; "The Status of Protasparagus and Myrsiphyllum in the Asparagaceae", Kew Bulletin Vol. 48, No. 1 (1993), pp. 63-78
- Marloth, Rudolf. “The Flora of South Africa” 1932 Pub. Cape Town: Darter Bros. London: Wheldon & Wesley.
- "Asparagus", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2014-09-01
- Biosecurity SA : Declared plants in South Australia 2014 Accessed 1 September 2014.
- "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families".
- "bridal creeper". weed of the month. CRC weed management. Archived from the original on 2005-12-15. Retrieved 2006-04-30.
- "Bridal creeper, Asparagus asparagoides". CSIRO Division of Entomology. Archived from the original on 9 May 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-30.
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- Fellingham, A.C. & Meyer, N.L. (1995) "New combinations and a complete list of Asparagus species in southern Africa (Asparagaceae)". Bothalia 25: 205-209.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Asparagus.|