Common Names in English:
Cat Greenbrier, Catbrier, Sawbrier, Wild Sarsaparilla, Wild Sarsaparilla Vine
, 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 glauca
; rhizomes tuberous
, or spinose
. Stems perennial
branching, green, often mottled
, to 5+ m
, woody, glaucous,
; prickles, when present, thin, 1-5 mm.
to semi evergreen
, ± evenly disposed; petiole
green to glaucous-green, often mottled adaxially, silvery grayish
abaxially, drying to brownish tan adaxially, broadly ovate
, with 3 (or 5) conspicuous
veins, 4.5-11 × 2.5-6.6
cm, glabrous and glaucous abaxially, base
entire, apex rounded
, tapering, or short-acuminate.
Umbels few to many, axillary
to leaves, 5-12+-flowered, open, umbellate
to hemispherical; peduncle 2-5 cm. Flowers: perianth yellow to bronze;
tepals 3-7 mm; anthers
; ovule 1 per locule;
pedicel 0.5-1 cm. Berries
blue to black, subglobose, 8-10 mm, shiny
black at maturity, glaucous. 2n = 28, 32. [source]
Smilax glauca is easily recognized by its glaucous to whitened abaxial leaf surfaces, which, however, may be altered by heat in drying. It is reportedly the most weedy species of the genus. The plants tend to be evergreen in the more southern part of the distribution. [source]
Habit: Shrub , Subshrub , Vine
Flowers: Bloom Period: May, June, July.
Dry to wet woods , thickets, hedge- rows , roadsides; 0--800 m (Ref. 103908).
Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 1,973 meters (0 to 6,473 feet).
Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Sun to Partial Shade.
Moisture: Drought Tolerance: High
Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 4b, 5a, 5b, 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
S. spinulosa Smith • Smilax glauca var. genuina Blake • Smilax glauca var. leurophylla Blake • Smilax glauca var. leurophylla S. F. Blake
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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Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 22, 2007:
- Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden
- USDA PLANTS, USDA PLANTS Database
- University of Alabama Biodiversity and Systematics, Herbarium
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 2662884
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: Kew-289270
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 13755019
- Globally Unique Identifier: urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:541464-1
- GRIN Nomen Number: 34521
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 43342
- International Plant Names Index (IPNI) ID: 541464-1
- MoBot NameID: 18404198
- U.S.D.A. Plant Symbol: SMGLL
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 63459
- 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]
- Mean = 199.300 meters (653.871 feet), Standard Deviation = 218.530 based on 869 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]