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Bristly Greenbriar, Black-Spine Greenbriar

Smilax tamnoides L.

(formerly Smilax hispida and Smilax tamnoides var. hispida)

Smilacaceae (Greenbriar Family)

▲▼new emerging shoot in spring with dense, sharp, green spines on stem

▲▼ spiny stem, and tiny spines on leaf margin and underside midvein

▲▼heart-shaped to rounded leaves with parallel veins

▲▼spines turn black as stems mature


▲ older stems, still with abundant spines



·         Woody perennial monocot vines in the Greenbriar Family (Smilacaceae) that climb by use of tendrils; 3-4 species native to Missouri

·         Leaves are heart-shaped, glossy; some species have silvery or lighter-green mottling on young leaves

·         Flowers are small & white in clusters in leaf axils; fruit is a white berry eaten by wildlife & spread

·         Stems variably spiny with dense to sparse spines

·         Leaf mid-veins often spiny; three species common in Missouri

·         Saw Greenbriar (Smilax bona-nox)

o   Woody perennial vine with heart-shaped leaves with parallel veins, often with patches of lighter green color on a darker-green, glossy background, and base of leaf blade may flare out more than upper portion

o   Leaf margins may be spiny, as well as leaf midvien

o   Stems have short, stout spines, but not too densely spaced

o   Flowers are white in round or panicled clusters arising from leaf axils

o   Stem tendrils are strong, long

·         Roundleaf Greenbriar (Smilax rotundifolia)

o   Woody perennial vine with heart-shaped to almost rounded leaves with parallel veins; leaf undersides are slightly lighter green than top sides

o   Stems are light green, with widely-spaced, stout spines that are flared at their bases

o   Leaf midveins may be spiny

o   No mottling on leaf surfaces

o   Flowers are in rounded clusters on stems that arise at stem tips and from axils of leaves

·         Bristly Greenbriar, Black-Spined Greenbriar (Smilax tamnoides)

o   Woody vine with medium green stems covered with needle-like spines of varying lengths (1/16-1/4 inch or more long) that start out green, then turn black as the stem matures

o   Leaves are heart-shaped to rounded with parallel veins, with no lighter patches, and as glossy as saw greenbriar

o   Flowers are in rounded clusters on stems arising from axils of the leaves

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