Ming fern (Asparagus retrofractus), also known as a zigzag shrub, pom-pom Asparagus fern, and Ming asparagus fern, is an evergreen herbaceous perennial shrub that generally grows 6 to 8 feet tall.
This plant is known for its fern-shaped foliage composed of needle-shaped tufts (20 to 30 cladophylls per tuft) distributed along the stems; each group resembles a pom-pom, hence the common name of pom-pom asparagus fern. However, it isn’t a true fern.
It’s a shrubby plant that has spiny/thorny branches rather than fronds, is propagated by seeds rather than spores, and has leaf-like stem extensions (cladophylls) that are not leaves but typically perform the functions of the leaves.
The slender, scale-like leaves of Ming fern appear where the cladode meets the stalk. The stalks form a branching zigzag structure, hence the common name zigzag shrub. The small, scented white flowers with 6 petals in open axillary umbels bloom from spring to early summer.
The flowers are usually followed by small round orange fruits that ripen to black.