Asparagus Family – Asparagaceae

The Asparagus  family is named after  the Greek word ‘asparagus’ which means  ‘sprout’ or ‘shoot’. The family has 114 genera and 2900 species in three main subfamilies Agavoideae (Agave, Camassia, Hosta and Yucca),  Scilloideae (Hyacinth, Grape hyacinth Muscari, Bluebell Endymion ,Squill Scilla and Star of Bethlehem Ornithogalum) and Asparagoideae (Asparagus). There is one plant in the Nolinoideae sub-family (Solomon’s Seal Polygonatum) 

yucca flowers

Yucca is a genus of over 40 species of succulents native to Central America, the Caribbean and southeastern USA. This one is Yucca whipplei with the common name Our Lord’s Candle. Yucca gloriosa was the first to be introduced to Britain in1596.

 

hosta flowers and leaves

Hosta is a genus of more than 40 species from northeast Asia. Prized by gardeners in Britain for its striking foliage and ability to grow and flower in shade, over 6000 cultivars have been developed since the 19th century.

camassia cusikii flowers

Camassia cusikii is native to North America. It flowers in late spring in Oregon and Idaho. It grows from a bulb and has become a popular garden plant in Britain.

bluebell flowers

Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scriptus is a native wild flower. Common in woods throughout Britain in spring, its flowers are arranged on a one-sided, drooping raceme. Bees and other insects are attracted by nectar secreted from glands in the ovary wall. Pollinators include bumble-bees and the long-tongued hoverfly.

grape hyacinth flowers

Grape Hyacinth Muscari armeniacum is pollinated by bees searching for nectar and pollen when the flowers are open in spring.  It grows from a bulb and flowers in April and May. Muscari is a genus of 40 species native to the Mediterranean region and central and south western Asia.

scilla flowers

Siberian Squill Scilla sibericais grown in gardens as an early spring-flowering bulb. Only 20cm tall it  is native to Russia, the Caucasus and Turkey but not Siberia.

Solomon’s Seal Polygonatum multiflorum is a native wild flower also grown in shady gardens. There are a number of hybrids (e.g. Polygonatum x hybridum) available for gardeners.It is native to Europe and Asia and flowers in June.

asparagus spears

Asparagus Asparagus officinalis is a wild plant with short needle-like leaves and very small flowers that appear in June to August. It has been widely cultivated for centuries.  It grows from a creeping rhizome which sends up a series of above-ground stems known as spears. It is pollinated by insects.