Asparagus prostratus, Wild Asparagus, in West Sussex

Source: Rich, Tim. “Asparagus prostratus, Wild Asparagus, in West Sussex.” Sussex Botanical Recording Society Newsletter, no. 50 (May 2000).


Asparagus prostratus (Asparagus officinalis subsp. prostratus), Wild Asparagus is a Red Data Book species in Britain, and is included on the Priority Biodiversity Species list. I have recently been investigating its distribution in Britain with Quentin Kay and my wife Lindi. Historically it has often been confused at least nomenclaturally with the cultivated Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis subsp. officinalis) to which all the old Sussex records have in recent years been referred.

I have now found three separate herbarium records of the historical occurrence of A. prostratus on Shoreham Beach which appear to have been previously overlooked or doubt has been attached to their identity. The records are:

  1. Shingly beach, Shoreham, July 1877, Mrs. Bell Oakeshott (Booth Museum; presumably this is the record cited by Arnold 1887, 1909).
  2. Shoreham Beach, c. 1889, C. E. Salmon (Natural History Museum).
  3. Shoreham Beach, September 1895, T. Hilton (Booth Museum; I am suspicious that the Hilton record from Southwick Beach cited by Wolley-Dod 1937 may be this record, or it may have been in both sites?).

These are the first confirmed records for Sussex and the most easterly in England, the nearest others being Portland and possibly Poole in Dorset (it occurs further east in France, Belgium and Holland). I assume with the long history of building and development and absence of recent records that it has long gone from Shoreham Beach.

Another Asparagus record from shingles near the first sluice bridge at Eastbourne by F. C. S. Roper (Roper 1875) is also an interesting record, but was suggested to be A. officinalis subsp. officinalis (=var. campestris Syme) and I have not seen any material in BTN, BM or NMW.



ARNOLD, F. H. (1887). Flora of Sussex. Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., London.

ARNOLD, F. H. (1907). Flora of Sussex. 2nd edition. Sirnpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.,London.

ROPER, F. C. S. (1875). Flora of Eastbourne. John van Voorst, London.

WOLLEY-DOD, A. H. 1937. Flora of Sussex. Chatford House Press, Bristol.