Family Asparagaceae s.l.
The asparagus fern or Foxtail fern is naturalised in some areas of S. E. Queensland.
A. densiflorus itself is rarely seen in cultivation but a number of cultivars,
including A. densiflorus ‘Myersii’ (Meyers) are.
(Asparagus sprengeri, still seen as being the same plant as A. densiflorus especially
in horticulture, is a cultivar of A. aethiopicus.)
Foxtail ferns are perennial plants up to 1 or 2 m high that form clumps.
Stems grow from dense mats of fibrous roots with tubers.
The erect or slightly arching stems become somewhat woody.
They are densely covered in side branches that are less than 3.5 cm long.
These features give the stems a distinctive appearance like a fox’s tail.
The true leaves are reduced to small scales.
Photosynthesis is carried out by modified, needle-like stems called cladodes.
In each leaf axil are 2 to 4 that are 15 to 25 mm long and 1.5 to 3 mm wide with pointed tips.
There are scattered axillary spines often around 5 mm long but up to 1 cm.
Inflorescences are unbranched racemes up to 10 cm long.
The white to pale pink flowers, each on a short stalk, are bell-shaped.
Flowers have 6 tepals in 2 whorls, 6 stamens and a superior ovary with a 1 to 2 mm style.
The berries, around 6 mm wide, ripen from green to red (orange-red).
They usually have only 1 black seed but occasionally up to 3.
There are a large number of cultivars with the common ‘Myersii’ having more erect
stems with denser foliage than the species plants.
Asparagus densiflorus and the Australian native A. racemosus are very similar.
Inflorescences in both are racemes – long, unbranched stems with each flower being on a stalk.
A. densiforus has cladodes 1.5 mm or more wide while in A. racemosus they are under 1 mm.
|Features||A. racemosus||A. densiflorus|
|Aus. native||Yes N. Qld.||No|
|Habit||Shrub, climber to 7m||Shrub erect or scrambling to 2 m|
|Cladodes||3 – 6 / axil||2 – 4 / axil|
|Cladode size||1 – 3 cm L, 1 – 3 mm W||abt. 2 cm long, over 1.5 mm wide|
|Spines||Curved, 2 – 9 mm||Scattered 5 – 10 mm|
|Inflorescences||Racemes to 10 cm long||Racemes to 10 cm long|
|Flowers||White, uni or bi-sexual||White to pink|
|Fruit||Red berries 3 – 4 mm||Red berries 4 – 5 mm|
|Seeds||5 – 10 black||1 (few) black|