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Common Names in English:
China Root, China-Root, Chinese Smilax, Wild Smilax
Common Names in French:
Racine De Chine
Common Names in German:
Common Names in Spanish:
Zarzaparilla De China
, herbs, or vines
. Stems erect
, usually prickly, sometimes unarmed
. Leaves opposite or alternate, prominently 3-veined, reticulate
between veins, usually bearing tendrils
, usually leathery. Inflorescences umbellate
[or racemose or spicate
]. Flowers unisexual
on different plants
; tepals 6, distinct
, rarely united
into perianth tube
; stamens 2-3-whorled, anthers
1-locular; pistillate flowers bearing staminodes, pistil 3-carpellate; ovary 2-locular, 1-2 ovules per locule. Fruits baccate
. Seeds 1-3.
Genera 4(-12), species ca. 375 (1 genus, 20 species in the flora ) : worldwide, mainly tropical to subtropical , a few temperate .
The leaves of Smilacaceae are atypical of monocotyledons in being reticulate between major veins. The family is closely related to and sometimes included in Liliaceae. It differs mainly in leaf characteristics and in being dioecious.
, or herbs; rhizomes tuberous
, woody; roots
. Stems erect
or, more often, climbing
or branching, unarmed
with prickles; woody or herbaceous. Leaves deciduous or evergreen
, alternate; stipules present; tendrils
often present (few or rudimentary
in S. hugeri and S. ecirrhata, absent in S. biltmoreana), paired
, originating from petioles
, or, sometimes, reduced to scales
in herbaceous species, base
. Inflorescences umbellate
to leaves or bracts, loose
to dense, pedunculate
. Flowers unisexual
; tepals 6, greenish, yellow, or bronze, ovate to elliptic
; staminate flowers
sometimes with pistillode
, stamens 6, anthers
, dehiscence introrse
flowers with 6 staminodes, style short or absent, stigmas 3, recurved, ligulate
black, blue, purple, red, or orange. x
Species ca. 350: worldwide in the tropics and subtropics, with extensions into temperate areas.
The North American herbaceous species of Smilax (numbers 2, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, and 15 in this treatment) traditionally have been placed in sect. Nemexia (Rafinesque) A. de Candolle. J. K . Mangaly (1968) concluded that the correct name for this group at that rank is sect. Coprosmanthus (Torrey) Bentham. The remaining North American species, all more or less woody, belong to sect. Smilax. The relatively small number of species (20) present in the flora does not warrant the elaboration of an updated subgeneric classification, which should take into account all species of the genus on a worldwide basis.
The leaves of Smilax are very unusual. A. Arber (1918, 1920) believed that the blade of Smilax is not equivalent to the lamina of a dicotyledon but is merely a pseudolamina representing an expansion of the upper region of the petiole. In this view , tendrils are also proliferations of the petiole and are not homologous to tendrils of dicotyledons. However, D. R. Kaplan (1973) remarked that unifacial monocotyledonous leaves never exhibit a lamina rudiment at the apex, and therefore there is no convincing argument that their apices are simply petiolar . He suggested that the terete leaf axis of monocotyledons is not merely an expanded petiole but is positionally equivalent to the lamina region of a dicotyledonous leaf. Smilax leaves lack an abscission layer, but the distal portion of the petiole undergoes a soft disintegration and the blade falls, leaving a rough end on the stub (W. C. Coker 1944).
Smilax has numerous uses. Sarsaparilla, a beverage and medicinal used against rheumatism, is obtained from the rhizomes of various species, mainly from Mexico and Central America. A jelly can be made from the rhizomes. The fleshy rhizomes of several vining species, most notably S. smallii, which have a texture of firm, crisp apples, were used by Native Americans and early settlers in the same manner as were potatoes, or else in making bread or mush. The young, succulent stems of several species are cooked and used as asparagus or the tender stems may be used in salads . Seeds were sometimes used as beads (Indian coral ) and a brown dye can be made from the roots of various species. Woody rhizomes were reportedly used by Native Americans and settlers in making pipes. Some species have been used in Native American (D. E. Moerman 1986) and folk medicine. All species of Smilax are excellent wildlife food and are also browsed, or the rhizomes dug and eaten, by domestic stock.
Species Smilax china
. Stem branched, terete
, 1--5 m
, woody, sparsely prickly.
0.5--1.5 cm, narrowly winged
for 1/2--2/3 its length
zone just above winged portion; tendrils
usually present. Leaf blade
, 3--10 × 1.5--6(--10) cm. Inflorescence
borne in axil of young leaf, of 1 umbel, basally not prophyllate
peduncle 1--2 cm; umbels of both sexes 10--25-flowered, subglobose,
subglobose, 2--3 mm in diam.; bracteoles many, small. Male flowers:
tepals yellowish green, 3.5--4.5 × 1.5--2.5 mm; stamens 3--4
. Female flowers: staminodes 6. Berries
, 0.6--1.5 cm in diam., minutely white powdery. Fl.
fr. Sep--Nov. 2 n = 30*, 90*. [source]
Smilax taquetii H. Léveillé (Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 10: 372. 1912), described from Korea, was identified as S. china by McKean (Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 44: 196. 1986). [source]
Flowers: Bloom Period: January, February. • Flower Color: chartreuse, yellow-green
Size: 12-15' tall.
Forests , thickets, hillsides, grassy slopes , shaded places along valleys or streams ; near sea level to 2000 m .
Typically found in water with a depth of 0 to -3,046 meters (0 to -9,993 feet).
Biome: Marine .
Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b. (map)
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- Haeckel, 1866
- Cavalier-Smith, 1981
- Sinnott, 1935 ex Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Vascular Plants
- Kenrick & Crane, 1997
- Brongniart, 1843
- Takhtajan, 1967
- Superorder: Dioscoreanae () - (J.d. Hooker, in Le Maout & Decaisne, 1873) Takhtajan, 1997 Ex Reveal & Doweld, 1999
- Subclass: Liliidae () - Takhtajan, 1967
- Class: Spermatopsida () - Brongniart, 1843
- Infraphylum: Radiatopses () - Kenrick & Crane, 1997
- Subphylum: Euphyllophytina ()
- Phylum: Tracheophyta () - Sinnott, 1935 ex Cavalier-Smith, 1998 - Vascular Plants
- Subkingdom: Viridaeplantae () - Cavalier-Smith, 1981
- Kingdom: Plantae () - Haeckel, 1866 - Plants
Coprosmanthus japonicus Kunth • S. china var. taiheiensis (Hayata) T. Koyama • S. pteropus Miquel • S. taiheiensis Hayata. • Smilax china f. obtusa H. Léveillé • Smilax china var. taiheiensis (Hayata) T. Koyama • Smilax pteropus Miquel • Smilax taiheiensis Hayata.
Status: Accepted Name
Last scrutiny: 09-Jul-2004
Members of the genus Smilax
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 31 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:
S. aristolochiifolia (Sarsaparilla) · S. aspera (Rough Bindweed) · S. auriculata (Catbrier) · S. australis (Barbwire Vine) · S. biltmoreana (Biltmore's Carrionflower) · S. bona-nox (Cowvine Smilax Bona-Nox) · S. californica (California Greenbrier) · S. china (China Root) · S. coriacea (Everglades Greenbrier) · S. ecirrata (Carrionflower) · S. ecirrhata (Carrion Flower) · S. glauca (Cat Greenbrier) · S. glauca var. glauca (Sawbrier) · S. herbacea (Carrion Flower Vine) · S. herbacea lasioneuron (Blue Ridge Carrion-Flower) · S. hugeri (Huger's Carrionflower) · S. illinoensis (Illinois Greenbrier) · S. jamesii (English Peak Greenbrier) · S. lasioneura (Blue Ridge Carrion-Flower) · S. lasioneuron (Blue Ridge Carrion-Flower) · S. laurifolia (Bamboo Vine) · S. melastomifolia (Aka'awa) · S. pseudochina (Bamboo Vine) · S. pulverulenta (Downy Carrionflower) · S. pumila (Dwarf Smilax) · S. regelii (Jamaican Sarsaparilla) · S. renifolia (Kidneyleaf Greenbrier) · S. rotundifolia (Bull Briar) · S. smallii (Jackson Vine) · S. tamnoides (Bristly Greenbriar) · S. walteri (Coral Greenbrier)
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- A dictionary of the plant names of the Philippine Islands / by Elmer D. Merrill. Manila: Bureau of Public Print., 1903. url p. 116, p. 27, p. 30.
- A review of the identifications of the species described in Blanco's Flora de Filipinas, Manila, Bureau of public printing, 1905. url p. 87.
- A supplement to the Pharmacopia, and treatise on pharmacology in general: including not only the drugs and preparations used by practitioners of medicine, but also most of those employed in the chemical arts: together with a collection of the most useful medical formulæ. . by Samuel Frederic Gray. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1836. url p. 24.
- An illustrated dictionary of medicine, biology and allied sciences. .. by George M. Gould. 5th ed., with additions and corrections. PhiladelphiaP. Blakiston's Son1907 url p. 287.
- Botanical publications of E.D. Merrill. [New York, etc., 1899- url .
- Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History). London: The Museum, 1950-1977. url p. 93.
- Bulletin of the Natural History Museum. London: The Natural History Museum, c1993-2002. url p. 31.
- Bulletin of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [Washington, D.C.?]: Supt. of Docs., G.P.O., 1913-1923. url p. 48.
- Carnegie Institution of Washington publication. Washington, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1902- url p. 12, p. 12, p. 234, p. 256.
- Catalogue of scientific papers (1800-1900) Comp. by the Royal society of London. Cambridge, C. J. Clay and sons, 1867-1902; url p. 505.
- Catalogue of scientific papers, 1800-1900. Compiled by the Royal Society of London. London, C.J. Clay and Sons, 1867-1902 [etc.] Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1914-25. url p. 505.
- Catalogue of the collections in the museum of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain compiled by E.M. Holmes. London, The Society, 1878. url p. 133.
- Check-list of the species of fishes known from the Philippine Archipelago, Manila, Bureau of printing, 1910. url p. 139, p. 140, p. 536, p. 547.
- Chinese materia medica. extensively revised from F. Porter Smith's work by G. A. Stuart. Shanghai?: Presbyterian Mission Press?, 1911? url p. 409, p. 410, p. 411, p. 419.
- Chronological history of plants: man's record of his own existence illustrated through their names, uses, and companionship. Boston, Little, Brown & company, 1879. url .
- Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 45 2003 Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1890- url p. 116, p. 577.
- Descriptive catalogue of the Formosan fungi / by Kaneyoshi Sawoda. Taihoku, Formosa: Agricultural Experiment Station, 1919- url p. 259, p. 93.
- Flora medica; a botanical account of all the more important plants used in medicine in different parts of the world. London, Longman, 1838. url p. 596.
- Flora of Japan: in English: combined, much revised and extended translation / by the author of his Flora of Japan (1953) and Flora of Japan, Pteridophyta (1957); edited by Frederick G. Meyer and Egbert H. Walker. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1965. url p. 2, p. 310, p. 6.
- Great Basin naturalist memoirs. 1992 [Provo, Utah]Brigham Young University, 1976-1992. url p. 1335.
- Inventory of seeds and plants imported / U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry. Washington, D.C.: G.P.O., 1914-1924. url p. 42, p. 87.
- J.M. Nickell's botanical ready reference: especially designed for druggists and physicians: containing all of the botanical drugs known up to the present time, giving their medical properties, and all of their botanical, common, pharmacopoea compiled by J. M. Nickell. Chicago: Murray & Nickell Mfg. Co., 1911. url p. 127.
- Manual of vascular plants of the lower Yangtze Valley, China. Corvallis, Oregon State College url p. 519, p. 615.
- Minor products of Philippine forests, Manila, Bureau of Printing, 1920-1921. url , , , .
- Plantae Wilsonianae; an enumeration of the woody plants collected in western China for the Arnold arboretum of Harvard university during the years 1907, 1908, and 1910, by E. H. Wilson, ed. by Charles Sprague Sargent. Cambridge, University Press, 1913-17. url p. 11, p. 12, p. 4, p. 468, p. 5, p. 556, p. 6, p. 654, p. 9.
- Proceedings - California Academy of Sciences, 4th series. San Francisco, California Academy of Sciences. url p. 42.
- Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, 4th series. San Francisco, California Academy of Sciences. url p. 42, p. 70.
- Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. Washington, etc.: Entomological Society of Washington url p. 575.
- Proceedings of the Essex Institute. Salem: Essex Institute Press. url p. 108.
- Sargent, C. S. Plantae Wilsonianae: an enumeration of the woody plants collected in western China for the Arnold arboretum of Harvard university during the years 1907, 1908, and 1910 /by E. H. Wilson, ed. by Charles Sprague Sargent. 3 1917 Cambridge: The University press, 1913-17. url p. 11, p. 12, p. 4, p. 468, p. 498, p. 5, p. 556, p. 6, p. 654, p. 9.
- Sturtevant's notes on edible plants / Edited by U.P. Hedrick. Albany: J.B. Lyon, 1919. url p. 537.
- The American journal of science and arts. New-Haven: S. Converse, url p. 58.
- The American journal of science. 35 1839 New Haven, Kline Geology Laboratory, Yale University. url p. 58.
- The Asa Gray bulletin. 2 1953 Ann Arbor, Mich. url p. xvi.
- The Farmers' register. Richmond, Va.: Edmund Ruffin, 1833-1843. url p. 528.
- The Philippine journal of science. 2 1907 Manila. url p. 267, p. 287, p. 339, p. 415.
- The differentiation and specificity of starches in relation to genera, species, etc.; stereochemistry applied to protoplasmic processes and products, and as a strictly scientific basis for the classification of plants and animals Washington, D.C.Carnegie institution of Washington1913 url p. 12, p. 12, p. 234, p. 256.
- [Publications] - Bureau of Government Laboratories. Manila, Bureau of Public Printing, 1903-1906. url p. 27, p. 87.
- Arber, A. 1920. Tendrils of Smilax. Bot. Gaz. 69: 438-442.
- Coker, W. C. 1944. The woody smilaxes of the United States. J. Elisha Mitchell Sci. Soc. 60: 27-69, plates 9-39.
- Duncan, W. H. 1975. Woody Vines of the Southeastern United States. Athens, Ga.
- Fernald, M. L. 1944. Overlooked species, transfers, and novelties in the flora of eastern North America. Rhodora 46: 1-28, 32-60.
- Judd, W. S. 1998. The Smilacaceae in the southeastern United States. Harvard Pap. Bot. 3: 147-169.
- Mangaly, J. K. 1968. A cytotaxonomic study of the herbaceous species of Smilax: Section Coprosmanthus. Rhodora 70: 55-82, 247-273.
- Morong, T. 1894. The Smilaceae [sic] of North and Central America. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 21: 419-448.
- Pennell, F. W. 1916b. Notes on plants of the southern United States -- II. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 43: 409-421.
- Wang Fa-tsuan & Tang Tsin, eds. 1978; 1980. Liliaceae. Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 15: 1--280; 14: 1--308.
- Brands, S.J. (comp.) 1989-present. The Taxonomicon. Universal Taxonomic Services, Zwaag, The Netherlands. Accessed January 13, 2012.
Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 14, 2007:
- National Science Museum of Korea, National Science Museum of Korea Plant
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 2670068
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: Kew-288437
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 16576003
- Globally Unique Identifier: urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:541357-1
- GRIN Nomen Number: 34517
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 506036
- International Plant Names Index (IPNI) ID: 541357-1
- U.S.D.A. Plant Symbol: SMCH
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 63455
- Walter C. Holmes "Smilacaceae". in Flora of North America Vol. 26 Page 12, 13, 14, 17, 20, 468. Oxford University Press. Online at EFloras.org. [back]
- "Smilax". in Flora of North America Vol. 26 Page 14, 468, 469, 474, 477. Oxford University Press. Online at EFloras.org. [back]
- "Smilax china". in Flora of China Vol. 24 Page 101. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at EFloras.org. [back]
- Mean = 99.660 meters (326.969 feet), Standard Deviation = 620.080 based on 53 observations. Ocean depth information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]