Asparagus officinalis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Liliopsida Asparagales Asparagaceae

Scientific Name: Asparagus officinalis L.
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Asparagus, Garden Asparagus
French Asperge
Spanish Espárrago, Esparraguera
Asparagus caspius Hohen.
Asparagus longifolius Fisch. ex Steud.
Asparagus officinalis L. subsp. caspius (Hohen.) Asch. & Graebn.
Asparagus polyphyllus Steven ex Ledeb.
Taxonomic Notes: Asparagus officinalis L. is a primary wild relative of cultivated Asparagus (A. officinalis) (USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program 2013).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2013-10-01
Assessor(s): Kell, S.P., Rhodes, L. & Maxted, N.
Reviewer(s): Fielder, H.
Contributor(s): Hargreaves , S., Vörösváry, G., Vögel, R., Collett, L., Eliáš, P. & Asdal, Å.

Asparagus officinalis is globally assessed as Least Concern as it has a wide ranging global distribution, its population trend is thought to be stable and there are no major threats facing the species. It occurs in a wide variety of habitat types, and is conserved both in situ and ex situ. As identified by Kell (2011), the subspecies A. officinalis subsp. prostratus is Endangered in Great Britain; therefore, the subpopulations of this taxon require active management and monitoring.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Asparagus officinalis is native to most of Europe, north Africa, and western Asia, also spreading to Mongolia, parts of China and Siberia. It has been introduced and become naturalized in some parts of Europe, across Australasia and parts of north and south America (USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program 2011).

Kell (2011) summarized available knowledge of European distribution as follows:
  • Slovakia: occurs in the west, southwest, south and southeast of the country (Dostál and Červenka 1992). 
  • Norway: southeast coast.
  • Germany: widespread.
  • Hungary: widespread (Soó 1966, Simon 1992).
  • France: widespread; occurs in all departments with the exceptions of Gers, Hérault and Gard in the south and Paris to the north (Association Tela Botanica 2000–2010).
  • United Kingdom: Asparagus officinalis subsp. prostratus has a particularly narrow coastal range occurring in five localities in south Wales, nine in southwest England and seven in the Channel Islands (Preston et al. 2002). Asparagus officinalis subsp. officinalis has a much larger range—it has a patchy distribution in the west of the UK but is widespread in East Anglia and the southeast (Preston et al. 2002). It is present in only one locality in Northern Ireland and four localities in southern Scotland, near Edinburgh (Preston et al. 2002).
  • Ireland: Asparagus officinalis subsp. prostratus has a particularly narrow coastal range, occurring in only seven localities in eastern Ireland (Preston et al. 2002). A. officinalis subsp. officinalis also has a narrow range, occurring in only five localities on the east coast (Preston et al. 2002).
Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China (Xinjiang); Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; France (Corsica, France (mainland)); Georgia; Germany; Greece (Greece (mainland)); Hungary; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Ireland; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sicilia); Kazakhstan; Lebanon; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Malta; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal (Portugal (mainland)); Romania; Russian Federation (Altay, Central Asian Russia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Eastern Asian Russia, European Russia, Ingushetiya, Kabardino-Balkariya, Karachaevo-Cherkessiya, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Severo-Osetiya, Stavropol, West Siberia); Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain (Spain (mainland)); Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; Turkey (Turkey-in-Europe); Ukraine (Krym, Ukraine (main part)); United Kingdom (Great Britain, Northern Ireland)
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is very widespread across Eurasia and the global population is thought to be stable. The European range of this species is also stable (Kell 2011). The same author summarizes available knowledge of European populations of this species as follows:
  • Slovakia: the subpopulations are scattered but the population trend is stable.
  • Germany: widespread and common.
  • Central Europe: stable.
  • United Kingdom: Asparagus officinalis subsp. prostratus is showing some evidence of decline in terms of both range and frequency; those populations that remain are small, scattered and single-sexed (Preston et al. 2002).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:According to Kell (2011), in the Mediterranean, Asparagus officinalis is found in many habitats, from hedgerows and grassy habitats to scrub, wasteland and coastal areas (Blamey and Grey-Wilson 2004). In central Europe, it also occurs in steppe in warm regions. In Hungary, it grows in dry oak woodlands (Orno-Quercetum (pubescenti-cerris, Corno-Quercetum) karst scrub-forests, shrubs (Crataegetum danubiale), steppe woodlands (Campanolo-Stipetum tirsae), sand steppes (Brometum tectorum) and salt steppes (Achilleo-Festucetum pseudovinae) (Soó 1966, Simon 1992). It occurs in a range of soil types, but prefers calcareous soils, rich in nutrients and alkaline minerals (Soó 1966, Simon 1992).

According to Preston et al. (2002), A. officinalis subsp. prostratus prefers lowland areas, occurring on free-draining sea-cliffs (where it grows through Festuca rubra in rocky soils) and sand dunes (commonly found alongside paths). Tutin et al. (1980) also noted that this taxon occurs on coastal sands and rocks. A. officinalis subsp. officinalis prefers free-draining sandy soils and lowlands (Preston et al. 2002).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is collected for ornamental purposes (Kell 2011), has been used in traditional medicine and is widely cultivated as a vegetable (USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program 2014). Additionally wild Asparagus officinalis is a primary genetic relative of cultivated asparagus as so it has the potential for use as a gene donor for crop improvement (USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program 2014).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are currently no known threats to this species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The genus Asparagus is listed in Annex I of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) which aims to guarantee sustainable agriculture and food security through the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, as well as ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use (FAO 2009).

Kell (2011) summarises knowledge of the national threat/protection status of this species in Europe as follows:
  • Great Britain: A. officinalis subsp. prostratus is listed as Endangered (EN C2a(i)); A. officinalis subsp. officinalis is listed as Least Concern (LC) (Cheffings and Farrell 2005).
  • Denmark: classified as Least Concern (LC) (Wind and Pihl 2010).
  • Hungary: this species is not protected (Király 2007)
  • Ireland: A. officinalis subsp. prostratus is listed as Vulnerable and protected by the 1999 Flora Protection Order (National Botanical Gardens Glasnevin 2013).
EURISCO reports 92 germplasm accessions of A. officinalis held in European genebanks, 33 of which are reported to be of wild or weedy origin. Of the wild accessions, 26 originate from within Europe (EURISCO Catalogue 2010). Furthermore, 80 accessions of this species are found in the National Plant Germplasm System (USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program 2013), and at least 84 living collections are found in botanical gardens worldwide (BGCI 2013). 

This species is also noted as present in at least 15 protected areas across Europe and Russia (Information Center for the Environment (ICE) 2013).

Citation: Kell, S.P., Rhodes, L. & Maxted, N. 2016. Asparagus officinalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T176377A19392993. . Downloaded on 16 October 2018.
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