The genus Asparagus belongs to the Lily Family. It comprises about one
hundred and fifty species, and these are spread through the temperate
and tropical regions of the Old World. One-half of these species are
indigenous to South Africa, and it is from
this region that the most
ornamental of the greenhouse species have been obtained.
All the species are perennial, with generally fleshy roots or tubers.
The stems are annual in some, perennial in others, most of them being
spiny, climbing shrubs, growing to a length of from five to twenty or
even fifty feet. The true leaves are usually changed into spines, which
are situated at the base of the branches and are often stout and woody.
The false leaves, termed cladodia, are the linear or hair-like organs
which are popularly called leaves; they are in reality modified
branches. These cladodia are nearly always arranged in clusters at
intervals along the branches, and the flowers generally spring from
their axils. They usually fall off the hardy species in winter, and they
are easily affected by unfavorable conditions in all the species. Most
of them flower and fruit freely under cultivation, so that seeds are
available for propagation.
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Next: Ornamental Species
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