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Family Asparagaceae

Synonyms: Ruscaceae APNI*
Ruscaceae APNI*
Dracaenaceae APNI*
Convallariaceae APNI*
Eriospermaceae APNI*
Nolinaceae APNI*
Anthericaceae APNI*
Laxmanniaceae APNI*
Hyacinthaceae APNI*
Lomandraceae APNI*
Agavaceae APNI*
Aphyllanthaceae APNI*
Herreriaceae APNI*
Hostaceae APNI*
Funkiaceae APNI*

Description: Annual or perennial herbs, shrubs or vines, sometimes tree-like. Stems variously smooth or prickly, perennial or annual above ground; sometimes flattened and leaf-like (phylloclades); sometimes rhizomatous, tuberous or bulbous; roots fibrous or fleshy.

Leaves variously basal, cauline or both, alternate, whorled, clustered or sometimes opposite, in some taxa reduced to scales, in others very large and strap-like; usually linear, sometimes lanceolate, to ovate.

Inflorescence can take many forms, sometimes dimophic between sexes (e.g. Lomandra), axillary or terminal, flowers solitary, clustered or in spikes, umbels, racemes or panicles. Flowers actinomorphic or zygomorphic, 3-merous, usually pedunculate, bisexual or unisexual and then plants dioecious. Tepals usually 6 (sometimes 4 or 5), in 2 whorls, free or fused basally. Stamens usually 6 (sometimes 3, 4, 8, 10 or 12), sometimes forming staminodes; filaments free or fused basally; anthers dorsifixed or basifixed, 2-locular, introrse, dehiscing by longitudinal slits. Ovary superior to inferior, 3-locular; ovules usually 2–12 per loculus; style short; stigma 3-lobed or unlobed (or 3 free styles in Yucca.

Fruit a berry; seeds 1-numerous, usually black, shining.

Photo Tanja Lenz

Photo J. R. Hosking

Photo J. R. Hosking

Distribution and occurrence:

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Asparagaceae, Order: Asparagales)

These genera were often included in various families, including Agavaceae, Anthericaceae, Aspidistraceae, Convallariaceae, Dasylironaceae, Dracaenaceae, Hyacinthaceae, Laxmanniaceae, Liliaceae, Lomandraceae, Muscariaceae, Nolinaceae, and Ruscaceae. The family Asparagaceae is treated now in a much broader sense by most authors.

Text by R.L. Barrett
Taxon concept: Angiosperm Phylogeny Group IV (2016)

 Key to the genera 
1Scale leaves subtending leaf-like cladodes, cladodes often clustered or whorledAsparagus
Leaves not subtending leaf-like cladodes2
2Plants arborescent3
Plants herbaceous
                       Back to 1
3Perianth segments <2 cm long; ovary superior; leaves not succulent and spinescentCordyline
Perianth segments >2 cm long; ovary inferior or rarely superior; leaves often succulent and/or spinescent
                       Back to 2
4Leaves mostly less than 1 m long and less than 6 cm wide; scape 1–3 m high; ovary superiorYucca
Leaves usually more than 1 m long and more than 6 cm wide; scape 2–6 m high; ovary inferior
                       Back to 3
5Stamens much longer than tepalsAgave
Stamens shorter than tepals
                       Back to 4
6Leaves well developed, green and scattered along the aerial stem and branches; flowers usually axillary or in small terminal inflorescences; underground stems generally not well developed7
Leaves all or mostly basal or reduced and bract-like along the aerial stems; flowers commonly borne on a ± leafless scape or on a terminal inflorescence; underground stems well developed, usually modified into bulbs, corms, tubers or rhizomes
                       Back to 2
7Flowers unisexual; leaves scleromorphicLomandra
Flowers bisexual; leaves herbaceous, rarely scleromorphic
                       Back to 6
8Bulbs present10
Bulbs absent, rootstock often a rhizome, tuber or corm
                       Back to 6
9Perianth dark purple-blue, tubular with short lobes; uppermost flowers sterile10
Perianth white to green or blue, stellate with spreading tepals; all flowers fertile
                       Back to
10Flowers drooping, so appearing to be all on one side of the inflorescence, apex of the flowers openHyacinthoides
Infloresence erect, with flowers dense and evenly spaced around it, apex of the flowers constricted
                       Back to 9
11Leaves with a distinct slender petiole and a broad blade <3 cm wide with dark purple spotsDrimiopsis
Leaves more or less linear to narrowly lanceolate, not spotted, petiole not distinct
                       Back to 9
12Tepals more or less oblong, thick-textured, whitish or yellowish with distinct, broad, green to brown longitudinal band on adaxial surface associated with 3–5 central nervesAlbuca
Tepals ovate to lanceolate, thick- or thin-textured, unicoloured or with a narrow indistinct green or brown keel on adaxial surface without any central nerves
                       Back to 11
13All leaves caulineLaxmannia
Leaves chiefly basal, if some cauline then reducing in size up stem
                       Back to 8
14Stamens 3, with 3 staminodesSowerbaea
Stamens 6
                       Back to 13
15Margins of inner tepals fringed throughoutThysanotus
Margins of inner tepals entire
                       Back to 14
16Anthers linear, longer than filamentsArthropodium
Anthers linear to oblong, usually shorter than filaments
                       Back to 15
17Leaves 40–175 cm long, 2.5–9 cm wide, thick, leathery; flowers 25–30 mm longDracaena
17Leaves 5–45 cm long, 0.05–2.5 cm wide, thin, not leathery; flowers 3–15 mm long18
18Filaments glabrous or minutely papillose; perianth whiteChlorophytum
Filaments hirsute or finely pubescent; perianth pale blue, purple or white
                       Back to 17

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