The asparagus family Asparagaceae was one of the monocotyledonous families that were split off from the lily family Liliaceae, along with other unrelated plants such as Amaryllis spp. and Agapanthus spp.
Members of this family can differ quite a lot in appearance so it’s hard to give a single description for all plants; they tend to have tightly bunched nodes, internodes and leaves, but this is not a firm rule for the family.
Flowers, Fruits & Leaves
Tepals: Petals and sepals look alike, typically with 3 of each.
Male: Typically 6 stamina.
Female: 3-parted pistil.
Fruit: Fruits vary a lot, from the little purple berries of mondo grass to the dehiscent seed pods of agave.
Leaves: The parallel leaves can vary a lot. They might be scale-like bracts, succulent, or strappy.
Plants in the Asparagus genus tend to resemble a fern, such as one of the ornamental plants known as asparagus fern, A. densiflorus. This genus also includes the succulent culinary asparagus, which are the tender spring stalks of A. officinalis.
The agave subfamily Agavoideae includes a number of plants that we will likely recognise, including plants in the Agave and Yucca genera. They are not closely related to other succulents like aloe vera, sempervivum or cacti.
There are a few Aussie natives within the lomandra subfamily Lomandroideae, including plants in the Lomandra and Cordyline genera that are widely used in Aussie gardens.
Mondo grasses are in a genus called Ophiopogon and are in the subfamily Nolinoideae, along with members of the Dracaena plant.
Xanthorrhoea is a native genus of “grass trees” within the asparagus family that resemble another Australian unrelated species, Kingia australis.
This family is a relatively recently classified family because the groupings don’t necessarily intuitively make as much sense as other families with clearer similarities such as true grasses, orchids, legumes or mints.
If you haven’t already read my articles on plant identification and scientific names, I recommend reading those to get a broader picture of the topic. Alternatively, you can browse some of my other plant families, subfamilies and genera below.