An ancient Greek name.
An herbaceous Smilax, in open woods and thickets; of western and southern range. Found in northern Ohio. May.
Annual, smooth, simple, erect, one to two feet high, unarmed.
Alternate, several-nerved, often grouped at the summit of a stem, ovate, rounded or cordate at base, more or less pubescent beneath; lower leaves reduced to scales; tendrils usually in the axils of the upper leaves.
Dioecious, yellowish green; borne in many-flowered umbels in the axils of the leaves or scales. Stam-inate flowers without an ovary and with four to six stamens. Pistillate flowers often a little smaller than the staminate with a few aborted stamens and a three-celled ovary. The perianth is six-cleft.
A bluish black berry the size of a pea.
The woods and thickets of the north are full of the vines of the Greenbriers, woody climbers, which make their way upward from the dense lower growth to the light and air of the lower tree tops by means of coiling tendrils, developed from the petioles which seize and hold, so enabling the plants to climb upward inch by inch until the goal is reached. Most of them are covered more or less densely with prickles, whence comes their botanical name, Smilax, scraper. The Sarsaparilla of commerce is a Smilax, and the Smilaxes were formerly called Sarsaparillas.
Upright Smilax. Smilax ecirrhata
The earliest bloomer of the genus here at the north was by the early botanists regarded simply as an unstable variation of Smilax herbacea, the Carrion-Flower, which differs from its brothers in at least one important particular; it is an herb and not a woody vine. The fetid odor of the blossoms gives it its common name. Later botanists have divided the species, and the Upright Smilax is the form that sends up in early May an erect, smooth, unbranched stem, one to two feet high, mostly destitute of tendrils and what there are belonging to the upper leaves. In the axils of the leaves are umbels of yellowish green six-lobed florets, each umbel containing from twenty to thirty of these. The plant is dioecious, and these florets are either staminate without pistils or pistillate without stamens. In September the fertile stem is burdened with the weight of its bluish black berries in many-fruited umbels.