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The Families of Angiosperms

L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz

Asparagaceae Juss.
~ Former Liliaceae, Asparagaceae-Asparagoideae of APG III et al.
Excluding Agavaceae, Aphyllanthaceae, Hesperocallidaceae, Hyacinthaceae, Laxmanniaceae,
Ruscaceae, Themidaceae.
Habit and leaf form. Shrubs, or lianas, or herbs. Switch-plants; with the principal
photosynthesizing function transferred to stems (as represented by axillary clusters of
cladodes). Leaves much reduced (to small bractlike structures). The herbs perennial;
without conspicuous aggregations of leaves; rhizomatous. Self supporting, or climbing; the
climbers stem twiners; twining anticlockwise (Asparagus). Leaves alternate; membranous
(scales); more or less sheathing; simple. Lamina entire; parallel-veined. Leaves exstipulate.
Leaf anatomy. The mesophyll commonly containing mucilage cells (with raphides); commonly
containing crystals. The crystals raphides. Foliar vessels absent.
Axial (stem, wood) anatomy. Secondary thickening absent.

The vessel end-walls scalariform.

Root anatomy. Roots with velamen (often), or without velamen. Root xylem with vessels; vessel
end-walls simple.
Reproductive type, pollination. Unisexual flowers present, or absent. Plants hermaphrodite, or
monoecious, or dioecious, or polygamomonoecious. Female flowers with staminodes (i.e. with
nonfunctional stamens). Floral nectaries present. Nectar secretion from the gynoecium (via
septal nectaries).
Inflorescence, floral, fruit and seed morphology. Flowers solitary, or aggregated in ‘inflorescences’;
when aggregated, in cymes, or in racemes, or in umbels. The ultimate inflorescence units
probably cymose. Inflorescences umbel-like or racemelike, but probably always determinate?.
Flowers small; regular; 3 merous; cyclic. Perigone tube present, or absent. Hypogynous disk
Perianth of ‘tepals’; 6; free, or joined; 2 whorled; isomerous; sepaloid, or petaloid; similar in
the two whorls; green, or white, or yellow. Tepal apex trichomes (TAT) absent (Asparagus).
Androecium 6. Androecial members adnate (at the base of the perianth); free of one
another; 2 whorled. Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens (in male and hermaphrodite
flowers). Stamens 6; diplostemonous. Anthers dorsifixed, or basifixed; dehiscing via
longitudinal slits; introrse. The endothecial thickenings spiral. Microsporogenesis successive.
Pollen grains aperturate; 1 aperturate; sulcate; 2-celled.
Gynoecium 3 carpelled. Carpels isomerous with the perianth. The pistil 3 celled. Gynoecium
syncarpous; synstylovarious to eu-syncarpous; superior. Ovary 3 locular. Gynoecium stylate.
Styles 1; apical; shorter than the ovary to about as long as the ovary (usually rather short).
Stylar canal present. Stigmas wet type, or dry type. Placentation axile. Ovules 2–12 per locule;
non-arillate; hemianatropous, or anatropous, or orthotropous; crassinucellate. Embryo-sac
development Polygonum-type. Endosperm formation nuclear.
Fruit fleshy; indehiscent; a berry. Seeds endospermic. Endosperm oily. Embryo well
differentiated. Cotyledons 1. Embryo achlorophyllous (1/1); straight, or curved. Testa encrusted
with phytomelan, or without phytomelan (?); ‘often' black.
Seedling. Hypocotyl internode present (short). Seedling collar not conspicuous. Coleoptile
absent. Seedling cataphylls present. Primary root persistent.
Physiology, phytochemistry. C3. C3 physiology recorded directly in Asparagus. Anatomy non-C4
type (Asparagus). Not cyanogenic. Alkaloids absent. Arbutin absent. Saponins/sapogenins
present (steroidal). Proanthocyanidins absent. Flavonols present, or absent; kaempferol, or
kaempferol and quercetin. Ellagic acid absent. Sieve-tube plastids P-type; type II.
Geography, cytology. Holarctic, Paleotropical, Cape, and Australian. Temperate, sub-tropical, and
tropical. Widespread, especially Old World.
Taxonomy. Subclass Monocotyledonae. Dahlgren et al. Superorder Liliiflorae; Asparagales. APG
III core angiosperms; Superorder Lilianae; non-commelinid Monocot. APG IV Order
Asparagales (Asparagaceae-Asparagoideae).

Species about 370. Genera 1, or 3; Asparagus, Hemiphylacus(?), Myrsiphyllum, Protasparagus.

General remarks. The comparative data compiled for this package offer support for retaining
Asparacaceae sensu stricto, Agavaceae, Aphylanthaceae and Hyacinthaceae as distinct
taxonomic groups. If family names are still intended to convey widely useful information, it is
inappropriate to merge them at this level.

Economic uses, etc. Cultivated ornamentals, and culinary asparagus (A. officinalis).

Illustrations. • Le Maout and Decaisne: Asparagus. • Asparagus officinalis (B. Ent., 1839).
• Asparagus officinalis: Eng. Bot. 1515 (1869). • Asparagus umbellatus: Bot. Mag. 126 (1900).

We advise against extracting comparative information from the descriptions. This is much
more easily achieved using the DELTA data files or the interactive key, which allows access to
the character list, illustrations, full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions,
differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified
attributes, distributions of character states within any set of taxa, geographical distribution,
genera included in each family, and classifications (Dahlgren; Dahlgren, Clifford, and Yeo;
Cronquist; APG). See also Guidelines for using data taken from Web publications.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 1992 onwards. The families of Flowering
Plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. Version: 14th
October 2019.’.