Did You Know…?


Asparagus macowanii

The common name belies the fact that this is a flowering plant and not a fern, although its delicate, plume-like foliage does conjure up a fern-like plant.

Asparagus comes from Africa, and many of the approximately 70 species are vines, with shoots that continue to grow in length indefinitely. The term for such a growth habit is “indeterminate”. The opposite condition, in which shoot elongation ceases after a relatively short time, is called “determinate”, and is exemplified by this, as well as the edible Asparagus species, and the sun-flower plant or corn plant.

The plumy foliage of this particular species is sometimes used in floral arrangements, although the tiny green “leaves” (cladodes) typically start to turn yellow and fall off the stems in about a week after the stem has been cut from the plant. However, if the stems are not cut off the plant, the cladodes can remain healthy and green for over a year. Many species of Asparagus (including this one) produce sharp stipules several millimeters in length along their stems that can cause painful cuts if one pulls upwards on a stem.

Asparagus is dioecious—plants are either male or female—so to get red berries (fruit), one has to have a minimum of two plants in close proximity. One can also make more plants by cutting the rhizome into several smaller clumps, a process called “division”.

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