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Asparagus plumosus Baker 1875
pronounced: as-PAH-uh-guss ploo-MOH-suss
(Asparagaceae – the asparagus family)
synonym: Asparagus setaceus (Kunth) Jessop 1966
pronounced: as-PAH-uh-guss set-TAY-see-us
common name: Feathered Asparagus Fern
Asparagus is from the Greek ασφαραγος (aspharagos), the ancient Greek name for Asparagus officinalis, the vegetable that we eat, a relative of this plant; plumosus is Latin for ‘feathery’. There is some confusion as to the botanical name of this plant, but most Australian authorities regard A. plumosus as correct, and reckon A. setaceus to be misapplied. Setaceus is from the Latin seta (sæta), a bristle or stiff hair on an animal.
This is an introduced species that originally came from South Africa, but is now naturalized in north-east Queensland and southwards as far as NSW and South Australia. It grows from sea level to an altitude of about 800 m, usually near settlements or in old gardens, but also on rainforest edges or in disturbed areas in rainforest. It is a perennial scrambler with fibrous rhizomes and roots, and aerial parts will grow to about 5 m high on supporting vegetation. The stems will grow to many metres in length, but are quite slender. They are tough and wiry and bear recurved spines. The plant can cause serious environmental problems when it escapes into bushland, where it easily scrambles over other vegetation up into the canopy. It is a class 3 declared pest under Queensland legislation.
The flowers are greenish white and bell-shaped, 5 – 7 mm wide, found single or paired.
One-seeded berries are produced, green ripening to black, 4 – 6 mm in diameter. The perianth lobes are dry and chafflike, persistent at the base of the fruit. The seeds are globular, 3 – 4 mm in diameter. The colour of the berries makes Asparagus plumosus easily distinguishable from A. africanus, which has red berries, but is otherwise very similar. Both species are spread by birds and by the dumping of garden waste.
Photographs taken 2013
Page last updated 9th October 2016