Asparagus, a genus of useful and ornamental plants of the lily family. There are about 150 species, all native to the Old World. The garden asparagus is a perennial plant that has been cultivated as a vegetable for more than 2,000 years. The immature, tender stalks, called spears, are the parts that are eaten. When mature, the plant is bushy and woody, with many fine branches.

AsparagusAsparagus spears are popular vegetables.

Asparagus spears grow from roots called crowns. These crowns, rather than seeds, are usually used for starting an asparagus garden. A single plant will continue to yield for up to 20 years. Garden-asparagus plants grow 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 cm) high.

Many species of asparagus, such as the florist's smilax and asparagus fern, are grown for ornamental purposes. Their fern-like, green foliage is used for trimming bouquets and other floral pieces.

The garden asparagus is Asparagus officinalis; florist's smilax, A. asparagoides; asparagus fern, A. plumosus. All belong to the lily family, Liliaceae.