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Trees of the year
Trees of the year


Scientific name: Asparagus africanus  

Family: Asparagaceae 


Common names: bush asparagus, African asparagus, wild asparagus, climbing asparagus fern, ornamental asparagus, sparrow grass (Eng.); haakdoring, katdoring, wag-’n-bietjie (Afr.); ubulawu ubumhlope, umthunzi (isiXhosa); isigoba, isigobo (isiZuli); lelala-tau-le-leholo, leunyeli (Southern Sotho)

Dicoma capensis

Asparagus africanus

Description: A scrambling shrub up to 1 m tall, or a climber with stems to about 3 m long, with rhizomatous roots, producing many slender stems. The stems are glabrous (with no hair), but mostly have spines and grow in a twining way.

Leaves are minute scales, whereas it is the cladodes that function as leaves. The cladodes are 6–15 mm long and only 0.5 mm wide and end in a sharp point. They are produced in clusters above each leaf scale.

Flowers are white, sweetly scented and produced in small clusters in the axils and each cluster contains several flowers, and red berries. The fragrance of the flowers attracts insects, such as bees, and they serve as pollination agents. After flowering, red berries are produced and birds and animals feed on them.

Flowering time:  Spring to summer (Sept. –Feb.).

The fruit is a round splitting capsule up to 5 mm in diameter, covered with glands, green, turning red when ripe, splitting later to reveal a single black, oil-rich seed per capsule.

Fruiting Time February and May

Origin: Africa

Medicinal Uses:  Shoots, roots and the underground stems of Asparagus africanus are used to make medicines to treat ailments, such as rheumatism, arthritis, eye problems, nausea, colic, pulmonary tuberculosis, and bladder and kidney infections. The root tubers are boiled and mixed with milk and given to women just after childbirth to release the afterbirth. The branchlets, stems or roots are pounded, soaked in water and the fusion is drunken 2 or 3 times a day for the treatment of mental disturbance. Powdered dried roots are rubbed into scarifications on the back, stomach and legs of boys undergoing circumcision.

Propagation: Propagated by seeds

Pooley, E. 2005. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Publication Trust
Hassan, H.S., Ahmadu, A.A. & Hassan, A.S. 2008. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Asparagus africanus root extract. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine 5(1): 27–31.
Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. & Cunningham, A.B. 1996. Zulu medicinal plants: an inventory. University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg.