New Mexico Wildflowers: Asparagus Family



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Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

The asparagus you buy in a grocery store is a shoot. Left alone, the shoots turn into bushes whose parts are so slender and feathery, it's easy to walk right past them. Because of all that near-nothingness, they're difficult to photograph. The flowers are tiny and short-lived. You're more likely to see seed pods. Asparagus qualifies for this web site because in New Mexico, it has escaped into the wild.


Feathery False-Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

There are two species of false Solomon's-seal (Maianthemum) in New Mexico. M. racemosum has broad-looking leaves, 5 to 8 cm wide. Also, a fully developed flower spike is paniculate (branching), and can have up to about 250 flowers. Not that any of my pictures shows a fully developed flower spike. They do how flowers look "jammed together" as the side branches of the flower spike first develop.


Starry False Solomon's-Seal (Maianthemum stellatum)

The leaves of Maianthemum stellatum are about 2.5 to 3.5 cm wide, making them narrower-looking than the ones on M. racemosum. A fully developed inflorescence isn't paniculate, and you should find 15 or fewer flowers per inflorescence. Also, to me at least, the flowers look less jammed together than on M. racemosum.


Beargrass (Nolina)

Beargrass (or sacahuista) is easily recognized from the leaves alone. While yucca-like in their arrangement, clumps of beargrass look shaggier than yucca plants. Beargrass leaves are narrow, just as narrowleaf yucca leaves are, but beargrass leaves are more flexible and end in curly fibers. One of the photos is a close-up of the end of a beargrass leaf.


When beargrass does flower, it puts up fluffy-looking clumps of small white or whitish flowers—again distinguishing it from a yucca plant.