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Family: Asparagaceae (asparagus family)

[= Agavaceae, Anthericaceae, Hyacinthaceae, Laxmanniaceae, Ruscaceae, Themidaceae, Behniaceae]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Asparagales

About 153 genera and 2480 species, found worldwide except polar regions. Twenty seven genera and 768 species are native to southern Africa, one genus and four species are naturalised, and a further 25 genera and 60 species are cultivated in the region. The family at one time contained only the genus Asparagus but has been expanded considerably with the incorporation of Agavaceae, Hyacinthaceae and some other previous families (see Angiosperm Phylogeny Website for more).

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI) where old family delimitations were still being used at time of access.

Albuca

Native to Africa and Arabian Peninsula, with 128 species native to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Asparagus

About 120 species, distributed through Africa, Europe and Asia, and has also been introduced to Australia. A total of 86 species are native to southern Africa, and one species, Asparagus officinalis (Garden asparagus), is cultivated in the region.

Behnia

One species: Behnia reticulata, native to South Africa (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo), Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Perennial climber. Previously placed in a separate family: Behniaceae.

Bowiea

About two species, native to Africa, with one species, Bowiea volubilis, native to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Chlorophytum

About 165 species, found in Africa, Madagascar and Asia. Fifty-seven species are native to southern Africa. Previously in the Anthericaceae, then the Agavaceae

Chlorophytum comosum

Daubenya

Eight species, native to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Dipcadi

About 30 species, native to Africa, Madagascar, Socotra, Mediterranean region and India, with 14 species native to southern Africa. Previously placed in the family Hyacinthaceae, which has been sunk under the Asparagaceae.

Dracaena

About 60 species (warmer regions of the world), with five species native to southern Africa and a further three species that are cultivated in the region. Previously placed in the family Dracaenaceae, then the Ruscaceae, neither of which is now recognised.

Drimia

A total of 65 species, all endemic to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Drimiopsis

About 15 species, native to Africa, with eight species native to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Eriospermum

Distributed mainly within southern Africa with 105 of the 127 species occurring in this region. The remaining species occur further north in tropical Africa. Previously placed in the family Eriospermaceae, then the Ruscaceae, neither of which is now recognised. 

Eucomis

About 12 species, native from South Africa through to Malawi, with 11 species native to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Lachenalia

There are a total of 110 species, all endemic to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Ledebouria

A total of 37 species are native to southern Africa, many of them previously placed in the genus Scilla. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Massonia

Eight species, endemic to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Merwilla

Three species are native to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Ornithogalum

About 200 species, native to Africa, Europe and western Asia, with 91 species native to southern Africa and a further species that is cultivated in the region. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Polyxena

Six species, endemic to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Pseudogaltonia

Two species: Pseudogaltonia clavata and Pseudogaltonia liliiflora native to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Pseudoprospero

One species, Pseudoprospero firmifolium (= Scilla firmifolia). Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Resnova

Five species native to southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Sansevieria

About 60 species (mainly tropical Africa and Asia), of which 10 are native to southern Africa. An additional three species are cultivated in the region. Previously placed in the family Dracaenaceae, then the Ruscaceae, neither of which is now recognised.

Schizobasis

One species native to southern Africa - Schizobasis angolensis (recorded from Zimbabwe).

 

Schizocarphus

One species: Schizocarphus nervosus (= Scilla nervosa). Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Spetaea

One species: Spetaea lachenaliiflora, endemic to the Western Cape. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

 

Thuranthos

Thuranthos zambesiacum is native to southern Africa (recorded from Zimbabwe).

 

Veltheimia

Two species, endemic to southern Africa (Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape). Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Genera naturalised in southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).

Agave

About 275 species, native to the New World. Four species have become naturalised in southern Africa and there are a further eight species that are cultivated in this region. The genus includes Sisal Agave sisalana, which is widely cultivated for production of fibre. Pulque is an alcoholic drink derived from fermented sap of Agave plants. Mescal and tequila are distilled from the fermented sap.

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

Information from Glen (2002). Species are listed for genera with only one species represented in southern Africa.

Arthropodium cirratum (Rengarenga, Renga lily, New Zealand rock lily, Maikaika)

Native to New Zealand. Previously in Laxmanniaceae.

 

Aspidistra

Two species cultivated: Aspidistra elatior and Aspidistra typica, both from China. Previously in the Ruscaceae.

 

Beaucarnea recurvata (Ponytail palm)

[= Nolina recurvata]

Native to the USA. Previously in the Ruscaceae.

Bellevalia romana

Native to the Mediterranean. Previously in Hyacinthaceae. See Encyclopedia of Life.

Beschorneria

Three species are cultivated in gardens in southern Africa, all of which are native to Mexico. Previously placed in the family Agavaceae.

Brodiaea coronaria

Native to western USA.

 

Convallaria

Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-valley) is native to the north temperate regions and is cultivated in gardens in southern Africa. Previously in the Convalariaceae and then the Ruscaceae. See Wikipedia.

Cordyline

About 15 species, native to the western Pacific region, including New Zealand, eastern Australia, southeastern Asia, Polynesia and Hawaii. Four species are cultivated in southern Africa. Previously placed in Agavaceae and then Laxmanniaceae.

 

Dasylirion

Seventeen species, native to Mexico and southwestern USA. Four species of Dasylirion are cultivated in southern Africa. Previously in the Ruscaceae.

 

Furcraea

Two species, Fucraea bedinghausii (native to Mexico) and Fucraea foetida (Mauritius hemp) (native to central and northern South America) are cultivated in gardens in southern Africa. Previously placed in the family Agavaceae.

Hesperaloe

Hesperaloe parvifolia is native to Texas, USA and is cultivated in southern Africa. Previously placed in the family Agavaceae.

 

Hosta

Two species cultivated: Hosta taquetii and Hosta ventricosa. Previously placed in the family Agavaceae.

 

Hyacinthoides (bluebells)

Three species, native to Europe, of which two are cultivated in southern Africa. Previously in Hyacinthaceae.

Hyacinthus orientalis (Common hyacinth, Garden hyacinth)

Native to Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. Previously in Hyacinthaceae. See Wikipedia.

Liriope

Two species cultivated: Liriope muscari (from China) and Liriope spicata (from Japan, China and Korea). Previously in the Ruscaceae. See Wikipedia.

 

Muscari

Two species cultivated: Muscari aucheri (Grape hyacinth) (native to Turkey) and Muscari comosum (Tassel hyacinth) (native from Europe to southwestern Asia). Previously in Hyacinthaceae. See Wikipedia.

 

Manfreda

Manfreda variegata is native to Texas and Mexico and is cultivated in gardens in southern Africa. Previously placed in the family Agavaceae.

Ophiopogon

Ophiopogon jaburan (native to Japan) and Ophiopogon japonicus (Japanese hyacinth - native to Japan, China and Korea)  are cultivated in southern Africa. Previously in the Ruscaceae.

 

Polygonatum

Polygonatum odoratum (Angular Solomon's-seal) is native to Eurasia and is cultivated in southern Africa. Previously in the Ruscaceae. See Wikipedia.

 

Prospero autumnale (Autumn squill)

[= Scilla autumnalis]

Native from Europe to Iraq. See Wikipedia.

 

Reineckea carnea

Native to China and Japan. Previously in the Ruscaceae.

 

Ruscus aculeatus (Butchers' broom)

Native to Europe and the Azores and cultivated in southern Africa. Previously in the Ruscaceae. See Wikipedia.

 

Scilla

About 50 species, Native to Africa, Europe and Asia. Two species are cultivated in southern Africa. A number of African species previously in Scilla have been transferred to other genera, particularly Ledebouria. Scilla was previously placed in the family Hyacinthaceae, which has been sunk under the Asparagaceae.

Triteleia uniflora

Native to western USA.

 

Yucca

Four species, all originating from the USA/Mexico are cultivated in southern Africa. Previously placed in the family Agavaceae.

 

Publications

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated plants of southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

  • Malcomber, S.T. & Sebsebe, D. 1993. The status of Protasparagus and Myrsiphyllum in the Asparagaceae. Kew Bulletin 48: 63-78.
  • Klak, C. & Linder, H.P. 1994. Synopsis of the Anthericaceae in the Flora zambesiaca area. Kirkia 15: 43–111.
  • Obermeyer, A.A. & Immelman, K.L. 1992. Asparagaceae. Flora of Southern Africa 5,3: 11-82.
  • Smith, G.F. & Mössmer, M. 1996. FSA contributions 4: Agavaceae. Bothalia 26: 31–35.

 


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