Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This climbing non-woody vine is a native perennial up to 8' long that branches occasionally. The light green to purple stems are terete, slightly speckled, glabrous, and often glaucous. Alternate leaves up to 3½" long and 2½" across occur at intervals along each stem; they are ovate-oval to broadly ovate-lanceolate in shape, smooth along their margins, and parallel-veined. The upper surfaces of the leaves are medium green and glabrous, while their lower surfaces are pale green and hairless. There are no hairs along the raised veins on the leaf undersides. The petioles of the leaves are up to 1¾" long, light green, and hairless. At the base of most petioles, there is a pair of tendrils that can cling to adjacent vegetation or objects for support. At the base of each stem on the vine, there is an appressed to slightly spreading sheath that is usually bladeless. Individual umbels of flowers are produced from the axils of the middle to upper leaves of each mature vine. Each umbel is connected to the stem by a long stout peduncle about 4-10" long. The peduncles are 4-8 times longer than the petioles of adjacent leaves; they are similar in appearance to the stems. Individual umbels are about 1½–3" across, consisting of 20-120 flowers on slender pedicels; when fully developed, they are globoid in shape. Like other species in this genus, Smooth Carrion Flower is dioecious; some vines produce only staminate (male) flowers, while other vines produce only pistillate (female) flowers. The green to yellowish green staminate flowers are individually about ¼" across, consisting of 6 lanceolate tepals and 6 stamens with white anthers. The green to yellowish green pistillate flowers are individually about ¼" across, consisting of 6 lanceolate tepals and a pistil with 3 flattened stigmata. The tepals of both kinds of flowers are often recurved. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer and lasts about 3 weeks. The flowers often have a carrion-like scent, but its presence and strength varies with the local ecotype. Staminate flowers wither away after blooming, while pistillate flowers are replaced by globoid fleshy berries. Individual berries are about ¼" across and contain about 3-5 seeds; they are dark blue and glaucous at maturity. At the end of the growing season, the entire vine dies down to the ground.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

According to official records, Smooth Carrion Flower is rare in Illinois. However, in neighboring states this vine has been found in many counties and it is regarded as more common. It is possible that some records of Smilax lasioneura (Common Carrion Flower) in Illinois are based on misidentifications and it was Smooth Carrion Flower that was observed. These two species are very similar in appearance and easily confused. Habitats of Smooth Carrion Flower include savannas, thickets, prairies, rocky upland woodlands, woodland openings, woodland borders, and fence rows. Occasional wildfires appear to be beneficial in managing populations of this species.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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N.B., Ont., Que; Ala., Ga., Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., N.H., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Pa., S.C., Tenn., Vt., Va., W.Va.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Vines. Stems annual, climbing, branching, to 2.5 m, herbaceous, glabrous; prickles absent. Leaves: petiole thin, 1–6 cm; tendrils numerous, long, functional; blade oblong-ovate, ovate, or round, 4.5–12 × 3–9 cm, glabrous abaxially, base cordate to truncate, margins entire, apex obtuse to acute; proximal cauline leaves narrower and smaller. Umbels many, axillary to leaves, 20–100+-flowered, globose; peduncle to 30 cm, progressively shorter distally. Flowers: perianth greenish, carrion-scented; tepals 3.5–4.5 mm; anthers much shorter than filaments; ovules (1–)2 per locule; pedicel 0.5–2 cm. Berries blue, subglobose, ca. 10 mm diam., glaucous. 2n = 26.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Coprosmanthus herbaceus (Linnaeus) Kunth; C. peduncularis (Muhlenberg ex Willdenow) Kunth; Nemexia cerulea Rafinesque; N. herbacea (Linnaeus) Small; N. nigra Rafinesque; Smilax herbacea subsp. crispifolia Pennell; S. herbacea var. peduncularis (Muhlenberg ex Willdenow) A. de Candolle; S. herbacea var. simsii A. de Candolle; S. peduncularis Muhlenberg ex Willdenow
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

According to official records, Smooth Carrion Flower is rare in Illinois. However, in neighboring states this vine has been found in many counties and it is regarded as more common. It is possible that some records of Smilax lasioneura (Common Carrion Flower) in Illinois are based on misidentifications and it was Smooth Carrion Flower that was observed. These two species are very similar in appearance and easily confused. Habitats of Smooth Carrion Flower include savannas, thickets, prairies, rocky upland woodlands, woodland openings, woodland borders, and fence rows. Occasional wildfires appear to be beneficial in managing populations of this species.
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Higher elevations in rich woods, alluvial thickets, and meadows, often in calcareous soils; 100--800m.
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Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers are pollinated primarily by small bees, miscellaneous flies, and beetles. Fly visitors include Flesh flies, Blow flies, Muscid flies, Syrphid flies, mosquitoes, and other species. The bees suck nectar or collect pollen, while the flies and beetles suck nectar or feed on pollen. The butterfly Megisto cymela (Little Wood Satyr) has been observed sucking nectar from Carrion Flower as well. Insects that feed on the foliage of Smilax spp. (whether Greenbriers or Carrion Flowers) include the flea beetle Pachyonychus paradoxus, the thrips Ctenothrips bridwelli, and the caterpillars of several moths, including Acrolepiopsis incertella (Carrion Flower Moth), Phosphila miselioides (Spotted Phosphila), Phosphila turbulenta (Turbulent Phosphila), and Phyprosopus callitrichoides (Curve-Lined Owlet). In addition to these species, the caterpillars of Papaipema unimoda (Meadow Rue Borer Moth) sometimes bore into the stems of Carrion Flowers. The berries of Smilax spp. are eaten by some upland gamebirds and songbirds (see the Bird Table); the Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey also eat the young leaves and buds of these vines. The berries are a minor source of food to some mammals
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Flower-Visiting Insects of Carrion Flower in Illinois

Smilax herbacea (Carrion Flower)
(Bees suck nectar or collect pollen; flies and beetles suck nectar or feed on pollen, while other insects suck nectar only; one observation is from Knab, otherwise observations are from Robertson and Graenicher)

On staminate flowers:

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera cp (Rb)

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlorella aurata sn cp (Rb), Augochlorella striata sn cp (Rb), Lasioglossum versatus sn cp (Rb)

Flies
Sarcophagidae: Ravinia anxia sn (Rb); Calliphoridae: Lucilia illustris sn (Rb)

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Megisto cymela sn (Rb)

Beetles
Cerambycidae: Euderces picipes fp np (Rb); Scarabaeidae: Euphoria fulgida fp np (Rb)

Floral gender unspecified:

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea cp (Gr), Augochloropsis metallica metallica sn cp (Gr), Halictus confusus sn cp (Gr), Lasioglossum imitatus cp (Gr), Lasioglossum reticulatus sn cp (Gr); Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena rugosa sn cp (Gr)

Wasps
Ichneumonidae: Cryptus sp. sn (Gr), Dusona glaucus sn (Gr), Tryphon seminiger sn (Gr); Vespidae (Eumeninae): Ancistrocerus adiabatus sn (Gr)

Flies
Culicidae: Aedes stimulans sn (Knb, Gr); Syrphidae: Eristalis arbustorum sn/fp (Gr), Toxomerus geminatus sn/fp (Gr); Tachinidae: Phyllomya cremides sn/fp (Gr); Anthomyiidae: Delia platura sn/fp (Gr); Calliphoridae: Calliphora vomitoria sn/fp (Gr), Lucilia illustris sn/fp (Gr), Lucilia sericata sn/fp (Gr), Phormia regina sn/fp (Gr), Pollenia rudis sn/fp (Gr), Protophormia terraenovae sn/fp (Gr); Muscidae: Clinopera spp. sn/fp (Gr, 1902), Limnophora garrula sn/fp (Gr), Neomyia cornicina sn/fp (Gr); Sarcophagidae: Helicobia spp. sn/fp (Gr), Helicobia rapax sn/fp (Gr), Sarcophaga spp. sn/fp (Gr), Sarcophaga sarracenioides sn/fp (Gr); Platystomatidae: Rivellia pallida sn/fp (Gr); Lonchaeidae: Lonchaea polita sn/fp (Gr); Lauxaniidae: Minettia lupulina sn/fp (Gr), Sapromyza sp. sn/fp (Gr)

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Megisto cymela sn (Gr)

Beetles
Cerambycidae: Brachysomida atra sn (Gr), Brachysomida bivittata sn (Gr), Cyrtophorus verrucosum sn (Gr), Euderces picipes sn (Gr); Mordellidae: Mordella sp. sn (Gr); Pyrochroidae: Pedilus collaris sn (Gr), Pedilus lugubris sn (Gr)

Plant Bugs
Miridae: Adelphocoris superbus sn (Gr), Poecilocapsus lineatus sn (Gr)

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering May--Jun.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Smilax herbacea

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

Smooth Carrion Flower prefers full or partial sun and more or less mesic conditions. It flourishes in different kinds of soil, including those that are rocky or loamy. In a shady situation, this vine may fail to produce flowers.
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Wikipedia

Smilax herbacea

Smilax herbacea (smooth herbaceous greenbrier or "carrion flower") is a plant in the catbrier family, Smilacaceae. It is native to eastern Canada and the eastern United States.[2]

Description[edit]

Smilax herbacea is a vine with alternate, simple leaves, on climbing stems. The flowers are green, borne in spring. The plant at first looks like asparagus when it first sprouts out of the ground. The plant can grow over 8 feet tall without support, but will eventually fall over unless it successfully finds external support. As flowers start to develop, at first they look similar to small broccoli florets on thin stems.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. Vol. 1: 527.
  2. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families


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Notes

Comments

The leaves and habit of Smilax herbacea are quite variable.
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