Asparagus of birria (Tamus communis)

Only the tender shoots are used, which are similar to wild asparagus, they are chopped and eaten fried, in omelets,… They can be found in humid areas of scrubland, tangled between bushes and stones. Be careful with the little red balls that appear after ripening and roots, they are poisonous, as a curiosity to say that in 2008 this plant became part of the list of toxic plants in Spain.


It is a climbing plant, which renews its stems every year and twines in a clockwise direction. Leaves alternate, 3 to 20 cm long, petiolate, ovate-heart-shaped, broadly acuminate, dark green blade, with 3 to 9 curved, conspicuous nerves starting from the basal notch. Twisted climbing stems up to 4 m, delicate, tender and hairless, with longitudinal grooves. Very large tuber up to 20 cm or more in length and black in color. Dioecious plant with brownish flowers, the male ones in spiciform, slender, patent clusters, with 6 stamens, the female ones in shorter, pendulous, few-flowered spikes, with 3 sepals and 3 similar petals united at the base forming a tube with the rudiment of the fruit at the bottom; corolla 3 mm long, with 6 narrow, somewhat recurved lobes. Fruit in toxic fleshy berry, about 12 mm in diameter, pale bright red, rarely yellowish, in clusters and with few seeds. Fructifies in autumn.

Distribution and habitat

Most of Europe, except northern Europe. Common in the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands. It lives in damp and shady places, hedge rows, thickets, oak margins, pine forests, oak groves, and riparian forests. It intervenes in the associations Bupleurum-Quercus rotundifolia and Rubo ulmifolii-Rosetum corymbiferae.

Economic and cultural importance


The roots, or napiform tuber in poultice, heal bruises and wounds and in rubs relieve rheumatism, arthritis and sciatica; they are rubefacient and redden the skin. Poisonous fruits, even deadly. Serious intoxications eventually occur in children, who accidentally ingest its berries, which have an attractive red color. Intoxication causes intense irritation of mucous membranes, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting, accompanied by abatimeinto, drowsiness, chills, even respiratory alterations and coma.

Active ingredients

Histamine-like principle, diosgenin-derived steroidal saponosides and abundant calcium oxalate (CaC2O4) raphides