Smilax australis (SMILACACEAE); Austral sarsaparilla, barbed-wire vine

Image: Habit
Image: Foliage
Image: Flowers and foliage
Image: Fruit

Image: Habit

Photo: Derek Boddington 2002
Robust and vigorous woody vine to about 8m long, all parts glabrous. Common in a wide variety of habitats from Victoria north to CYP and west to NW Qld, NT and northern WA. Also occurring in PNG and the Lesser Sundas. (AVH)

Stems, strong up to 1cm diam., distinctly armed with prickles, light to mid green, browning with age. This vine often forms dense, impenetrable thickets in some favourable habitats.

Image: FoliageBack to top

Photo: Derek Boddington 2005
Leaves simple, alternate, broadly elliptic or lanceolate to ovate, uniform mid-green, 8-12cm long, fairly glossy on both surfaces, tough and leathery; venation longitudinal with 5 veins extending from near the base to the apex of the lamina, secondary veins, (reticulation) prominent; apex acute, sometimes rounded or shallowly notched, (emarginate), base rounded or cordate; petiole up to 12mm long, twisted.

Paired coiling tendrils, (modified stipules) up to 20cm long present at many of the leaf axils, often breaking early.

Image: Flowers and foliageBack to top

Smilax australis
Photo: David Somerville 2002
Flower greenish-white to cream, small, broadly tubular, with 6 spreading pointed, reflexed lobes and 6 long protruding stamens in the male flowers, (shown here); arranged in axillary clusters of one or more umbels.

Flowering in spring and summer.

Image: Fruit Back to top

Photo: Derek Boddington 2005
Fruit a shiny, ovoid or globose berry 8-12mm diam., turning black when ripe, containing 1 or 2 flattened brown seeds.

The plant is not self-fertile. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant).

Smilax - from the Greek name for poisonous tree; scratching.