Smilax (greenbriar)

Encyclopedia Article

Smilax, greenbriar                           Smilax spp.

Family:  Smilacaceae
Life cycle:   Perennial
Native status:  Native to N. America
Habitat:  Edges of woodlands

General description:  Woody vine with alternate, light green, heart-shaped or ovate leaves.  Leaves have parallel venation.  Some species have thorns and/or tendrils on stems.  Climbs on other plants, can form dense thickets

Key ID traits:  Light green leaves with parallel veins on leaves.   Produces globe-shaped clusters of bluish black berries.

Similar species:  Several Smilax species are found in Iowa, all are woody vines found in similar habitats. 

Miscellaneous:  Smilax is native to Iowa, and rarely spreads to the extent that it is weedy.  However, since it is found on the edges of woods frequented by people, and often has thorns that get tangled in clothing or puncture skin, it is often considered undesirable.  Also known as greenbriar, catbriar, and carrion flower (due to unpleasant odor of flowers).

Smilax has ovate leaves with arching veins that coalesce at the leaf tip (parallel).

Smilax are woody fines typically found on edges of wooded areas.

thorniness varies among the different smilax species
Thorniness varies among the different smilax species

Some smilax species produce tendrils that facilitate climbing on other vegetation.