Today is my mom's birthday! I attribute most of my admiration for plants to my mom. I grew up surrounded by plants and started helping her with watering and plant maintenance at an early age. I am celebrating her birthday on my blog by profiling one of her favorite plants - the Asparagus Fern. This is a very common house plant/outdoor summer plant in our area of the country.
You might wonder why this plant is given the common name "Asparagus Fern." These plants (which are actually not ferns) belong to the Asparagus genus. The genus also includes Asparagus officinalis, the plant which produces the edible aspargus spears that we all know and love (or tolerate, in my case). So if you have an Asparagus Fern, believe it or not, your plant is very closely related to the edible asparagus! You might be able to tell a resemblance in the new fronds of foliage that emerge. They look very similar to the edible aspargus.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="New frond from an Asparagus fern (Asparagus setaceus) - photo courtesy flickr user yauda"][/caption]
There are over 300 distinct species in the Asparagus genus, two of which are commonly kept as ornamental plants: A. densiflorus (synonym A. sprengeri) and A. plumosus (synonym A. setaceus). Both of these species use the common name "Asparagus Fern." A. plumosus is sometimes also labelled "Plumosa Fern" or "Florist's Fern." The fronds of this plant are airy and soft. They are sometimes used in floral arrangements.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="333" caption="Plumosa fern (Asparagus setaceus) - photo courtesy flickr user vanillalotus"][/caption]
The other species (A. densiflorus) has two common varieties that can be found as an ornamental plant. This is the species that my mom grows so well. To make the naming conventions even a little more complicated, the Asparagus densiflorus plant is sometimes given the common name "Sprenger's Asparagus." According to wikipedia, Carl Ludwig Sprenger made these ferns popular in Europe. So to reward him, his name has been applied as the botanical species name of the "Plumosa Fern" as as one of the common names for a different species A. densiflorus.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Aspargus densiflorus - photo courtesy flickr user Mrs Ramsay"][/caption]
As I said, there are two common varieties of A. densiflorus. One of these is sometimes labelled A. densiflorus 'Meyersii' and sometimes given the common name "Foxtail Asparagus Fern." This plant has a much more manicured look, with foliage densely confined around each branch, almost forming perfect cones. If you didn't know any better, you might think this plant had been pruned with some intricate little hedge trimmer. The other variety is the true species, and is more of a free spirit, with branches that contain less form. Even though the name Asparagus sprengeri was in honor of a person, this plant seems deserving of the name "sprengeri," because it looks "springy" as opposed to the 'Meyersii' variety.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Foxtail Asparagus Fern - Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyersii' - photo courtesy flickr user pandorea"][/caption]
I have an Asparagus densiflorus and A. densiflorus 'Meyersii' potted together. Sadly, my Asparagus plumosus is no longer with us. I would have shared photos of my ferns, but they become rather dormant over the winter and are just now being to "leaf out" again. Of course, they are more like needles than leaves. Botanically speaking, they are flattened stems that are capable of photosynthesis and they are called phylloclades.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Asparagus densiflorus in bloom - photo courtesy flickr user Distraction Limited"][/caption]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Asparagus densiflorus berries - photo courtesy flickr user Mr. Greenjeans"][/caption]
These plants have small white flowers, followed by green berries which become red with time. I have a couple of Asparagus ferns on my front porch, and occasionally new plants will come up from seed that was spread to neighboring pots. Underground, a small bulb-like feature grows. It reminds me a bit of the bulbs of Pregnant Onion.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="375" caption="Asparagus densiflorus seedling - photo courtesy flickr user joeysplanting"][/caption]
Happy Birthday, Mom! May all your fern fronds be green! :)