Common name: Asparagus fern
Botanical name: Asparagus spp. includes A. aethiopicus, A. densiflorus, A. plumosus, A. africanus
Other common names: Sprenger’s asparagus, Climbing asparagus fern
General description: A perennial vine or herb arising from a rhizome or tuber and grown as an indoor or outdoor ornamental plant. The vine form is often used for cut foliage. Some species are environmental weeds.
Flowers: Flowers are pinkish-white to white, range in length from 2.5mm to 4mm, can be solitary or paired, in racemes or clustered in the axils.
Leaves: The leaf-like foliage is not a true leaf but a cladode, a stem which takes on the function of a leaf. The actual leaves are reduced to scales while the foliage (or cladodes) can be of two forms. Expanded and fern-like or needle-like in clusters of three and compacted into a ‘fox-tail’ plume of foliage.
Fruit/Berries: The fruit are succulent berries 4 to 8mm in diameter and, depending on which species, green ripening to red, orange or purple/black.
Other: There are prickles present on the stems and around the base of the plant which can cause mechanical injury. Many Asparagus, species are restricted under Queensland’s Biosecurity Act 2014.
Symptoms: This plant is not considered toxic. Contact with the sap can cause skin irritation and dermatitis. The prickles may also cause mechanical injury.
Toxicity category: 3
Warning: Seek medical attention if exposure results in symptoms.