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Family Asparagaceae
Asparagus fern
Asparagus setaceus (Kunth) Jessop .

Wen zhu

Scientific names Common names
Asparagopsis setacea Kunth Asparagus fern (Engl.)
Asparagus asiaticus var. amharicus Pic.Serm. Climbing asparagus fern (Engl.)
Asparagus lujae De Wild. Climbing feather fern (Engl.)
Asparagus plumosus Baker Common asparagus fern (Engl.)
Asparagus setaceus (Kunth) Jessop Esparrago plumosa (Span.)
Asparagus zanzibaricus Baker Feather fern (Engl.)
Protasparagus plumosus (Baker) Oberm. Lace fern (Engl.)
Protasparagus setaceus (Kunth) Oberm. Ornamental asparagus (Engl.)
Asparagus setaceus (Kunth) Jessop is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Wen zhu.
DANISH: Slorasparges.
FRENCH: Asparagus des fleuristes.
GERMAN: Feder-spargel, Zierspargel.
JAPANESE: Asuparagasu setakeusu.
KENYA: Rura, Tumbae, Karurura, Rurura (Kikuyu).
MEXICO: Esparrago fino.
SPANISH: Ala de pajaro, Esparrago plumosa, Esparraguera de las floristas.
SWEDISH: Fjädersparris.
THAI: Prong fa, Chamchuri phaeng.

Gen info
- Etymology: The specific name derives from Latin "saeta" meaning hair or bristle, originally described by the German botanist Carl Sigismund Kunth. The synonym A. plumosus derives from the Latin "plumed" referring to the foliage, as described by Bakerin 1875. (7)
- Genus Asparagus of the Liliaceae family is of medical importance because of its steroidal sapogenins used as precursors for many pharmacologically active steroids.

- The common name is misleading as asparagus fern is not a fern at all.

Asparagus fern is a slender, climbing or ascending, branched perennial, with round, green and wiry stems, with very numerous slender branches and branchlets that spread horizontally, forming triangular fernlike sprays, with the upper internodes 1 to 2 millimeters long. Leaves (cladodes) are setaceous, very slender, 3 to 5 millimeters long, ascending or spreading, 6 to 12 in a fascicle. Flowers are small, perfect, solitary at the ends of the branches, with very short pedicels, about 1 millimeter long. Perianth-segments are about 2 millimeters long and spreading. Fruit is a purple and black ovoid berry.

- Cultivated for ornamental use, usually as a garden or potted house plant.
- Used as ground cover.

- Recently introduced.
- Native of Africa.
- Cultivated in most warm countries.
- Considered an environmental weed in pasts of Australia; a serious weed in native bushland coastal environs, and rainforest communities. (8)

• Study of MeOH extract of eaves isolated two new furostanol glycosides characterized as 3-O-[{α-L-rhamnopyranosyl(1->2)} {α-L-rhamnopyranosyl (1-->3)} -ß-D-glycopyransyl), 26-O-[ß-D-glucopyranosyl]-(25-S)-22α-methoxy-furost-5-en-3ß,25-diol (1), and its corresponding 22-hydroxy analog (2).
• Study of lipid-depleted enzyme preparations (acetone powders) from young shoots of A. plumosus efficiently catalyzed UDPG-dependent glucosylation of many 3ß-hydroxy steroids, including phytosterols, steroidal sapogenins of the spirostane type and some steroidal alkaloids structurally related to spirostanols. (10)

•Traditionally, antimalarial, diuretic.
- No reported serious toxicity; however, there are reported cases of mild contact dermatitis.

- Young shoots reportedly edible.
- No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Used as diuretic, antiepileptic, applied topically in skin diseases, treat urination, gynaecology and andrology problems, orally for dysentery and diarrhea treatment and treat pulmonary infections. (11)
- In Mexico a decoction of the branches are used for pulmonary infections; decoction of roots used as a diuretic.
- In Tanzania, the Lobedu drink a cold infusion of leaves and stem for malaria.
- In Pakistan, root tubers used with boiled milk and sugar for dysentery and diarrhea.
- Ornamental: The cuts sprays of the asparagus fern are ornamental favorites among florists for its beauty and lasting quality.

Phytochemicals / Glycosides: A methanolic extract study of leaves of A plumosus yielded two new furostanol glycosides (1) Study yielded three spirostanol glycosides from the leaves. (2)
Male Contraceptive Effect / Roots: 2-yamogenin and 2-furostanol glycosides isolated from the alcoholic extract of root caused 100% immobilization of human spermatozoa at 1% and 1.5%, levels respectively. (Pant G, Panwar MS, Negi DS, Zagorski M. Steroidal glycosides from Asparagus plumosus baker. Herba Polonica. 1988; 34:175-81) (9)
Steroid-Specific Glucosyltransferases / Shoots: Study of lipid-depleted enzyme preparations (acetone powders) from young shoots of A. plumosus efficiently catalyzed UDPG-dependent glucosylation of many 3ß-hydroxy steroids, including phytosterols, steroidal sapogenins of the spirostane type and some steroidal alkaloids structurally related to spirostanols. (10)

- Cultivated for ornamental use.
- Plant, seeds in the cybermarket.

              Abuse and Plagiarism of the Compilation on Philippine Medicinal Plants Under the Guise of Fair Use

Updated April 2020 / March 2013

Photos ©Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
New Furostanol Glycosides from Asparagus plumosus Leaves / O. P. Sati, G. Pant / J. Nat. Prod., 1985, 48(3): pp 390–394 / DOI: 10.1021/np50039a006
Spirostanol glycosides from Asparagus plumosus / O P Sati and G Pant / Phytochemistry • Volume 24, Issue 1, 1985, Pages 123-126 / doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)80820-1
Traditional Fever remedies: a list of Zambian plants / D G Fowler
Sapogenins at Different Ploidy Levels of Asparagus / D K Kar and Sumitra Sen / Current Science, Feb 20, 1986, Vol 55, No 4
Sorting Asparagus names / Porcher Michel H. et al. 1995 - 2020 / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / A Work in Progress / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
Asparagus setaceus (Kunth) Jessop / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
Indigenous knowledge and folk use of medicinal plants by the tribal communities of Hazar Nao Forest, Malakand District, North Pakistan / Waheed Murad*, Ashfaq Ahmad, Syed Abdullah Gilani and Mir Ajab Khan / Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 5(7), pp. 1072-1086, 4 April, 2011
Asparagus setaceus / Synonyms / The Plant List
Asparagus setaceus / Wikipedia
Asparagus plumosus / Weeds of Australia / Queensland Government
Medicinal Plants as a Potential Source of Male Contraceptive Agents / Jyoti Sethi, Janardhan Singh, Gurung N and Aggarwal A / Madridge Journal of Pharmaceutical Research
Steroid-specific glucosyltransferases in Asparagus plumosus shoots / Cezary Paczkowski, Zdzislaw A Wojciechowski / Phytochemistry, 1990; 29(1): pp 63-70 / https://doi.org/10.1016/0031-9422(90)89011-W
Pharmacognostic, phytochemical and fluorescence analysis of Asparagus setaceus Kunth / Adeel Usman, Muhammad Uzair, Muhammad Asif Wazir, Asad Saleem Sial / Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 2018; 4(1): pp 15-20

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants

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