The name “wild asparagus” is often misused to describe several varieties of plants that look more or less alike. Confusion moreover maintained by the traders themselves because one sometimes finds some on the markets, although it is a product of picking.
We present you 5 plants which are often confused, and which resemble, with many similarities to asparagus.
5 plants that look like asparagus
1. Wild asparagus
The real wild asparagus (Asparagus Acutifolius) are part of the family “Asparagaceae” and can be of various shapes and colors (from soft green to purple). They look a lot like green asparagus but are much finer (from 1 mm to 6-7 mm in diameter).
Only one precaution to be taken: the ants love them, reason why it can be judicious to make them bleach.
Ornithogales (Ornithogalum) are part of the “Liliaceae” family, although some botanists optionally link them to the “Asparagaceae” family. For this reason, they are often referred to as “woodland asparagus” or “asparagus” while the term “wild asparagus” is not appropriate.
The stems of ornithogales are smooth stems that end in floral buds. They are soft green in color and look a little like small ears of corn.
The ornithogale is also nicknamed “dame-de-onze-heures” because its flowers bloom at this late hour. The best known species is the Pyrenean ornithogale (Ornithogalum Pyrenaicum). But beware, the genus also contains toxic species.
When the ornithogales appeared on the markets at the end of the seventies (before they were not commercialized), they were sold – already – under the erroneous name of wild asparagus, or even “horsetail”, which was not correct either, although horsetail can also be edible, as we will see.
Horsetails (equisetum arvense), still known as “rat tails” or “pony tails”, are thin, straight shoots about 12 inches long (early season) with a spike at the end and are reddish-brown in color. They are common along fields and meadows and in cool sandy places. They are eaten like asparagus. Be careful not to confuse them with horsetail, which is poisonous.
4. The respounchous (or tamier)
The respounchous (or repountsous or repountchous) is the vernacular name of the common tamarisk (Tamus Communis), a plant of the family of the “Discoriaceae” which is also known as “grass for battered women”.
Only the young shoots should be picked so that they are not bitter. It is in any case advisable to bleach them. They are eaten like wild asparagus. Caution, do not confuse it with dioecious bryone which is toxic.
5. Baptisia australis
This close cousin of the asparagus, has very robust stumps allowing it to live a long time in our gardens but settles slowly. This great perennial appreciates light and draining soils and tolerates summer drought. A true all-terrain plant, the indigo lupin likes full sun and flowers abundantly in late spring. It is very much appreciated by florists across the Channel for its stiff flowers with good hold.
The Baptisia are close cousins of the lupines, which are much better known in Europe, but they are much less demanding in terms of humidity but share with them a preference for acid soils. During their growth, they also share many similarities with asparagus. Baptisia australis is a very beautiful perennial with indigo blue flowers. Its very graphic bluish foliage blends beautifully with its blue flowers.
These 5 plants are often confused, rightly, for asparagus, we present you their particularities, as well as a short description of these astonishing plants.