Smilax balearica (Willk. ex A.DC.) Burnat & Barbey
Smilax brevipes Jord.
Smilax capitata Buch.-Ham. ex D.Don
Smilax catalonica Poir.
Smilax conferta Jord.
Smilax excelsa Duhamel
Smilax goetzeana Engl.
Smilax inermis Jord.
Smilax intricatissima Jord.
Smilax longipes Gand.
Smilax maculata Roxb. ex D.Don
Smilax mauritanica Desf.
Smilax mauritanica Poir.
Smilax nigra Willd.
Smilax nilagirensis Steud. ex A.DC.
Smilax oxycarpa Jord.
Smilax peduncularis Jord.
Smilax pendulina Lowe
Smilax picta K.Koch
Smilax platyphylla Jord.
Smilax rettiana Willis ex Livera
Smilax rigida Sol. ex Sm.
Smilax sagittata Desv. ex Ham.
Smilax sagittifolia Lodd.
Smilax saxicola Gand.
Smilax tetragona L.f.
Smilax variabilis Pers.
Smilax willkommii Gand.
Common Name: Sarsaparilla
Leaves and ripe fruits
Photograph by: Conrado
Smilax aspera is an evergreen climbing plant producing stems about 3 metres long that attach themselves to other plants for support by means of tendrils.
The plant is gathered from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and dyestuff. The plant is often grown to form an impenetrable barrier.
S. Europe through Asia into China, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar.
Bushy places, river banks and ravines[
], usually close to the sea[
]. Forests at elevations of 1000 - 2000 metres in S. Xizang and SW Yunnan, China[
|Other Uses Rating||
Smilax aspera is a plant of the warm temperate zone moving into the tropics in India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. It is not a very cold-hardy plant, being able to tolerate short periods with temperatures down to around -10°c when fully dormant[
Succeeds in most soils in sun or semi-shade[
The flowers have a heavy sweet perfume[
Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Young shoots - raw or cooked as a vegetable[
]. They can be cooked and used as an asparagus substitute. The tendrils are also eaten[
The plant is an ingredient of soft drinks[
]. (this probably refers to the root)
The root is alterative, demulcent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant and tonic[
]. This is one of the best depurative medicines and is used as a springtime tonic and general body cleanser, usually with woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)[
The root has all the medicinal virtues of the widely used tropical herb sarsaparilla, though to a lesser degree[
]. It is often used as an adulterant to that plant[
The ripe fruits are squeezed and applied to the skin in the treatment of scabies[
The plant is often grown as an impenetrable hedge in the tropics[
A red dye is obtained from the ripe tendrils[
Seed - sow early spring in a warm greenhouse[
]. This note probably refers to the tropical members of the genus, seeds of plants from cooler areas seem to require a period of cold stratification, some species taking 2 or more years to germinate[
]. We sow the seed of temperate species in a cold frame as soon as we receive it, and would sow the seed as soon as it is ripe if we could obtain it then[
]. When the seedlings eventually germinate, prick them out into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first year, though we normally grow them on in pots for 2 years. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer.
Division in early spring as new growth begins[
]. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.
Cuttings of half-ripe shoots, July in a frame[