Common Greenbrier

Common_Greenbrier_jpgThe Samilacaceae family commonly called the Catbrier family consists of 10 genera and 225 species of lianas or climbers and a few herbs and shrubs; widespread in tropical and subtropical regions and in the northern temperate zone. The genus name Smilax is Greek for “bindweed” and likely refers to the thorns that “bind” whatever comes in contact with the vine.  The speciesrotundifolia is Greek for “round leaf” and refers to the shape of the Common Brier leaf. The thorns resemble a cat’s claw; thus, the common name “Cat Brier”. Greenbriers provides cover and winter food for rabbits and other small wildlife species.  The fleshly covering of the fruit is very thin and its nutritionally value is probably limited to the big tough seeds.  The berries are eaten extensively by some birds, particularly the Fish Crow, Ruffed Grouse, Mocking Bird, and Catbird. People find the young shoots excellent cooked like asparagus.  The young shoots, leaves and tendrils are quite good prepared like spinach or added fresh to salads.  The rootstocks yield a gelatin substitute that can be used as a thickening agent, or diluted and sweetened for use as a cold drink.



Cat Brier, Devil’s-Clothesline, Hell-Ropes, Bull Brier, Horse Brier, Round-Leaved Greenbrier


Smilax rotundifolia






Woody Vine


Stems climb on other plants


Late July to August, persisting to October


Maine to Florida and west to Texas ~ Statewide in New Jersey


Early May to late June


High-climbing, thicket-forming vine with tendrils ~ Stems green, generally 4-angles, diffusely branched, smooth, armed with broad-based prickles  ~ Leaves alternate, roughly heart shaped or oval, toothless ~ Flowers greenish yellow, bell-shaped, small, in cluster from leaf axil ~ Fruit blue-black, berry