Sunday, January 31, 2010

asparagus fern, part 1

Another South African native -- like the lovely freesia and amaryllis as well as the loathsome oxalis -- Sprenger asparagus fern (hereinafter SAF) came to me as a volunteer plant years ago. That was in the pre-Internet era, but even then I might not have looked a gift horse in the mouth. Only today, AFTER declaring SAF to be a weed ("PLANT OUT OF PLACE") have I found out it was poisonous.

SAF was named Plant of the Week in July 2004 by the site cited in the above link (a project of University of Oklahoma) and in August 2006 by killerplants, a commercial site devoted to botanical arcana.

Meyer asparagus fern, SAF's better-behaved cousin, was growing on the premises when we arrived here in 1975 and (like me, of course!) has not changed much in the interim. Neither Meyer nor Sprenger is really a fern. I assume that both are named after Dutch colonists whose countrymen brought apartheid as well as European botany to the southern hemisphere.

I have often wondered about the indigenous names of the South African plants, but this bit of research can wait for a day when I have not grubbed out what seemed like two tons of SAF's clumpy, nodular roots from about 20 square feet of my front yard. Alas, the project is only half done, but eventually SAF will make way for more calla lilies, flowering ginger, and maybe even some lettuce and arugula.

Goodbye, SAF! On Friday, you will be borne away to the Valhalla of municipal composting ground and I shall stand at the curb chanting ave atque vale!

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License