Asparagus officinalis L.
CC = *
CW = 3
MOC = 40
Family - Liliaceae
Habit - Rhizomatous, dioecious, perennial.
Stems - Spreading to erect, to 2 m, herbaceous, much branched, glabrous, green. Branches filiform, thin and drooping.
Leaves - Alternate and reduced to triangular scales on main stem, glabrous. Leaves of upper branches linear, to 2.5 cm long, 0.5 mm broad, in groups of 1-5 per node, glabrous, appearing as if in fascicles like pine needles.
Inflorescence - Single or paired flowers from nodes of aerial stems. Pedicels jointed, 8-15 m long, glabrous.
Flowers - Perianth 3-6 mm long, that of the pistillate flowers slightly shorter than that of the staminate flowers, bell-shaped, the tepals oblong-elliptic, fused at the base, rounded at apex, greenish white to greenish yellow, glabrous. Stamens 6, fused to the base of the perianth, not exserted. Filaments to 3 mm long, glabrous. Anthers orange. Style 1, with 3 short stigmas. Ovary superior, 1.8 mm long, with 3 locules, each with 2 ovules.
Fruits - Berries 8-10 mm long, globose, red at maturity, glabrous, with 3-6 seeds.
Flowering - May - June.
Habitat - Pastures, fencerows, fields, old homesites, disturbed sites, open woods, roadsides, railroads.
Origin - Native to Europe.
Other info. - This plant is found sporadically throughout most of Missouri and the continental U.S. It is easy to recognize from its large habit and frilly "leaves" which are actually highly divided stems. The flowers are small and relatively inconspicuous. Pistillate plants are more noticeable late in the season, with round red berries contrasting with the green plants.
Photographs taken at the Martha LaFite Thompson Nature Sanctuary, Clay County, MO., 5-12-00 (DETenaglia); also along the Katy Trail near Augusta, St. Charles County, MO, 4-28-2012 (SRTurner).