This species is often confused with Asparagus africanus. In practice, both species are used similarly without discrimination[
Asparagopsis flagellaris Kunth
Asparagus abyssinicus Hochst. ex A.Rich.
Asparagus pauli-guilelmi Solms
Asparagus schweinfurthii Baker
Asparagus somalensis Chiov.
Asparagus flagellaris is a scandent or more or less erect plant with arching spiny annual branchlets produced from a woody rootstock. Closely resembling the commercial asparagus, A. officinalis, its stems usually range from 2 - 3 metres tall, occasionally climbing to a height of 4 metres[
The plant is gathered from the wild for local use as a food and medicine.
Tropical Africa - Senegal to Ethiopia, south to the Congo and Tanzania.
Thickets and woodland in the savannah[
]. Wooded grasslands at low and medium elevations, up to 2,100 metres[
A plant of low to moderate elevations in the tropics. It grows in areas where the mean annual rainfall is in the range 1,000 - 1,800mm[
Succeeds in a variety of soil types[
]. Thick, succulent shoots are produced when the plant is grown in a rich, moist soil[
This species is capable of being improved by breeding and cultivation[
Fruit - raw[
]. The fleshy, orange fruit are collected from the plant in handfuls and the juice sucked out, whilst the solid part is discarded[
]. They have a sweet flavour[
]. The fruit is usually only eaten by children and is used especially in famine periods. It is highly nutritious and therefore important during such times of famine[
Young shoots - cooked and used as a vegetable[
]. They are dug out, washed, peeled and chewed by children and herdsmen in order to quench thirst and hunger[
Root tubers - cooked. The fleshy tubers are edible after several hours cooking[
The plant is used as a diuretic and laxative[
The roots have a variety of medicinal uses. They are used in various ways as a treatment against syphilis, gonorrhoea and other sexually transmitted diseases - either being macerated and then decocted and drunk; added to food; or used in baths[
]. The roots are boiled, mixed with milk and given to women immediately after childbirth to release the afterbirth[
]. The root is chewed, or macerated and gargled, as a remedy for throat troubles[
A root macerate is used against earache, as a treatment for conditions such as haematuria, coughs and schistosomiasis. The macerate is also an ingredient of a complicated technique for the treatment of bubonic plague[
A decoction of the roots is used to promote healing of the umbilicus of the newborn, it is mainly applied externally, but a small amount is also placed in the baby's mouth[
The branchlets (cladodes) are the main ingredient of a medicine to combat Guinea worm and of an ointment for hair growth[
]. They are eaten to combat stitch[
Applied externally, the branchlets are used as a wound medicine, to treat earache and eyesight troubles[
The pounded branches, mixed with butter, are used as an ointment for the treatment of haemorrhoids[
]. An embrocation is used against rheumatism and a hot water infusion to arrest diarrhoea[
The branchlets, stems or roots are pounded, soaked in water and the infusion drunk 2 - 3 times a day for the treatment of mental disturbance[
The seeds are swallowed to prevent eye diseases[
The leaves are used in ointments by native women to stimulate the growth of hair[
The wiry stems are used for preparing traps and snares for small animals, and for making cord[
The woody stem parts are used for making pencils[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak stored seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in containers in a lightly shaded position. It usually germinates in 3 - 6 weeks at 25°c[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny position until ready to plant out[
]. The seed can be stored for long periods[
Division as the plant comes into growth.
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