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Spiny asparagus – l-ispraġġ xewwieki/ iċ-ċaqċieqa – Asparagus aphyllus

The Spiny asparagus or iċ-ċaqċieqa is frequently found in most habitats, including maquis, garrigue, fallow fields, valleys, along rubble walls and sand dunes.

This plant grows as a highly variable shrub with rigid, spiny, branched stems with branchlets in clusters of two to six. Its leaves are scale-like, the lower shortly spurred at base. The flowers are greenish to yellowish-green, either solitary or in clusters, eventually forming blackish berries. They appear almost all year round, mostly February to June and August to October.

The Spiny asparagus was widely employed for various reasons. It was used in popular medicine as a diuretic; as firewood together with other shrubs and thistles (and is supposedly called ċaqċieqa due to it crackling noise when burning); and as food in difficult periods since the sprouting stems are edible – on the latter, most probably the name ċaqċieqa is a corruption of ċafċiegħa, where ċafċiegħ is the Maltese word for sprouting buds and stems, which are the parts of the plant which are edible and which used to be (and sometimes still are) collected.

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