The Hidden Half


Asparagus, Asparagus officinalis, is a well-known spring vegetable enjoyed since ancient times. A recipe using asparagus is included in one of the first known recipe books written by the Romans in the 1st Century AD.

An unfortunate side effect to enjoying asparagus is the sulphurous smell detected in urine after eating the vegetable. This is caused by asparagusic acid. It is thought that although everyone produces this smell after eating asparagus not everyone can detect the smell!

Image showing the root structure of a asparagus plant.

This X-ray CT scan is of a soil core taken from a larger pot and hence why the roots appear cut in a cylindrical shape. Interestingly, there are very thick roots which grow from a mass of tissue just below the soil.  Beneath these very thick roots are much thinner ones that are able to grow further into the soil.

3D Root Architecture

This video show the root system of asparagus which has been grown for 10 months in a larger pot and subsampled for X-ray CT scanning. The thick mat of dense roots at the surface form a structure known as the ‘crown’ where the asparagus shoots develop each year as the crop matures. Very fine roots develop from these stems and bury deep into the soil for nutrients and water.

The Hidden Half

Hounsfield Facility (A03)
Sutton Bonington Campus
University of Nottingham
Loughborough, Leics, U.K.
LE12 5RD

Telephone: +44(0)115 951 6786