Distribution and major morphological traits of wild asparagus (A. acutifolius L. and A. albus L.) in Sicily

ISHS Secretariat
Distribution and major morphological traits of wild asparagus (A. acutifolius L. and A. albus L.) in Sicily

Asparagus officinalis L. (family: Asparagaceae) is the only cultivated member of the genus though many other congeners are widespread within global flora. Among these, A. acutifolius L. and A. albus L. are widely represented in the Mediterranean basin. Since ancient times, they have been used by local populations for food and medicinal purposes. The present focus on these wild plants originates from their rediscovered use in local cuisine, the related biodiversity protection systems, and their consequent agronomic potential as new crops. Thus far no breeding program has been carried out for either species in Sicily. In view of the high potential interest of wild asparagus for cultivation and marketing purposes, exploratory research was conducted. First, a survey was carried out to determine the distribution of these two species in Sicily and to develop an ecological framework that could be the basis for additional studies. Secondly, morphological and physiological characterization of the accessions was performed to identify genotypes suitable for cultivation in semi-arid Mediterranean environments. The survey confirmed that these two species are typical of the Mediterranean maquis, found in arid areas, rocky soils, cliffs in coastal areas, roadsides, and abandoned land. Between the two species, A. acutifolius is relatively more ubiquitous. The data obtained from the characterization trials were subjected to multivariate statistical analysis. Significant morphological and physiological diversity was observed between the two Asparagus species. In particular, they showed high dissimilarity in plant volume (22,233.81 cm3 in A. acutifolius; 11,603.48 cm3 in A. albus), but also in flowering and fruiting rates and in the presence of spears. Cluster analysis grouped the accessions according to potential use. The populations collected showed promising potential and can be considered a starting point to encourage breeding projects. The studied characteristics appeared to be a suitable tool to differentiate wild asparagus populations for the evaluation of genetic diversity in a semi-arid Mediterranean area.

Lucia Dinolfo won the ISHS Young Minds Award for the best oral presentation at the at the XV International Asparagus Symposium in Spain in June 2022.

Lucia Dinolfo, Department of Agricultural, Food and Forest Sciences, University of Palermo, Viale delle Scienze, Building 4, 90128, Palermo, Italy, e-mail: lucia.dinolfo@unipa.it

The article is available in Chronica Horticulturae

Young Minds Award Winners