Asparagus falcatus: Sickle Thorn
The name asparagus generally brings to mind a sprig of the delicate, green A. plumosus or A. sprengeri added to a bouquet ofpurchased at the florist’s. This, of course, is a very limited view and if it were to be observed by the grower then the selection of attractive plants for indoor cultivation would also be greatly narrowed. The reader may be unaware of the fact but the genus Asparagus contains some 300 species, some of which are extraordinarily lovely and far from mere ‘supplementary greenery’. The ‘leaves’ of asparagus are not true leaves, for these are atrophied and generally form only membranous scales from the axils of which rise phylloclades resembling leaves.
The species is native to tropical Asia and Africa, where it grows in thin, open forests. It is a climber, reaching a length of 15 m (50 ft) and in the wild it climbs over the surrounding vegetation. The phylloclades are up to 10 cm (4 in) long, the leaf scale is furnished with a thick spine. The stem branches greatly so that the plant soon fills the space around it. There is no need, however, to be taken aback by the data of the length to which the plant grows; that applies to adult specimens many years old that were not kept in check by. Nevertheless, it is recommended to grow this asparagus in a conservatory or a large room because its beauty shows off to best advantage if the plant has ample space.
Many other, mostly smaller species are cultivated which the grower can choose from. Particularly lovely is A. sprengeri ‘Meyerii’, bushy like a fox tail, and only recently introduced to the market. Only the well-known A. plumosus, a fine asparagus from South Africa with branches that are arranged to give a layered appearance, is not very well suited for indoor cultivation because it does not tolerate a dry atmosphere.
Asparagus may be propagated by division or by seed, which should never be fully covered nor unduly shaded.
Cultivation is relatively easy. The potting compost should be relatively heavy, rich in humus and well fertilized. John Inncs potting compost No. 2 or No. 3, depending on the size of the pot, would be ideal. Feed should be applied frequently during the growth period. Many species require at least a partial resting period with limited watering in winter.