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the web of life in southern Africa

Asparagus officinalis (Asparagus)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Asparagales > Family: Asparagaceae > Genus: Asparagus

Asparagus officinalis (Asparagus) Asparagus officinalis (Asparagus)

Asparagus shoots as bought in a Cape Town supermarket. [photos H.G. Robertson, Iziko ©]

Asparagus officinalis (Asparagus)

An asparagus plant growing in the Vienna Botanical Gardens, Austria. [photo H.G. Robertson, Iziko ©]

Indigenous from North Africa, through central and southern Europe to western and central Asia. Young stems (termed 'spears') are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Cultivation dates back to at least the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. It is a perennial crop with harvesting of the spears taking place in late spring to early summer. The smell in one’s urine after eating asparagus is caused by excretion of the substance methyl mercaptan. Asparagus is regarded as a good source of minerals and of vitamins A, C and E.


  • van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World - Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.