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Asparagus aethiopicus L.
Family Asparagaceae
Common name: Ground Asparagus, Asparagus 'Fern'

Asparagus aethiopicus L. APNI*

Synonyms: Protasparagus aethiopicus (L.) Oberm. APNI*
Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers' APNI*
Asparagus aethiopicus 'Sprengeri' APNI*

Description: Shrub with sprawling to pendent perennial stems to c. 2 m long (erect bushy 'foxtail' stems in the cultivar Meyers); axillary spines present; central crown present, with roots fibrous, some tuberous.

Leaves scale-like. Cladodes 2–5 in each axil, linear, 15–25 mm long, 2–3 mm wide, flattened, apiculate, glabrous.

Racemes 4–10 cm long; pedicels 5–10 mm long, jointed in lower half. Tepals 3–4 mm long, white to pinkish.

Berry more or less globose, 5–8 mm diam., red; seeds 1 to few.

C. Wardrop

Photo Karen L Wilson


Flowering: Chiefly spring–summer; fruits all year.

Distribution and occurrence: Cultivated as an ornamental (several cultivars, e.g. 'Sprengeri' and 'Meyers' (a.k.a. 'Meyersii')); extensively naturalized, especially in the Sydney region, and a serious weed in bushland; chiefly in coastal districts north from Sussex Inlet; also Qld, Vic, SA, WA. Native of S Afr.
NSW subdivisions: *NC, *CC, *SC, ?SWS, *LHI
Other Australian states: *Qld *Vic. *S.A. *W.A.
Declared Noxious Weed
AVH map***

Usually has shortish, more or less prostrate stems whereas most other weedy Asparagus species tend to have more elongated erect or climbing stems. Note that the cultivar Meyers has erect stems with dense, short branchlets - what is commonly called a 'foxtail' stem; that cultivar is not known to be naturalised. Previously called A. densiflorus in Australia, but that name applies to a separate African species not known to be introduced here. A declared noxious weed on LHI.

Text by GJ Harden (1993); edited KL Wilson (2005; Oct 2014)
Taxon concept: Fl. NSW vol. 4 (1993)

APNI* Provides a link to the Australian Plant Name Index (hosted by the Australian National Botanic Gardens) for comprehensive bibliographic data
***The AVH map option provides a detailed interactive Australia wide distribution map drawn from collections held by all major Australian herbaria participating in the Australian Virtual Herbarium project.
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