Every year this vine comes up in my garden. And every year I tear it out of the ground. Again. And again. Up until this point I didn’t know what it was and I really didn’t care. I just wanted it to be gone, because it climbed over, around, under and through every other plant or object that happened to be in the near vicinity. It’s quite a tenacious plant, and I guess that tenacity is what made me finally decide to find out exactly what it is.
It turns out this plant is Smilax bona-nox, a vine in the Smilacaceae family. Some of its common names are saw greenbrier, cowvine and catbrier — I guess due to the prickles on the leaves and the thorns on the vine itself. It is a perennial vine which can reach a length of 20-30 feet and grows in areas of full sun to full shade. It blooms in late winter to early spring, forms a fruit of tiny black berries, is evergreen and can be considered noxious or invasive. Apparently most parts of the plant are edible. Mine have never been around long enough to form a flower, create a berry or be eaten!
After reading about this plant I’m wondering if I might be missing out on something by constantly pulling up the vines. According to Wikipedia:
“The fruits of this plant provide food for many species of animals, including many birds. The dense, prickly thickets make good cover for small animals.
Native Americans found several uses for the plant. The Muscogee people (also known as the Creek people) rubbed the moistened plant on their faces to enhance youthfulness, and the Comanche people used the leaves for cigarette wrappers. The Houma people of Louisiana used Smilax bona-nox roots to treat urinary tract infections and to make bread and cake.”
Hmmm. I like the fact that it provides food for wildlife. Anything that does that can’t be all bad. The “youthfulness” factor sounds promising, but I don’t think I want to rub my face with it. And I don’t smoke so I don’t guess I’ll be using the leaves for that! I’m also quite positive I don’t want to eat anything that might be known as a “cowvine cake”. On the other hand, Smilax bona-nox is a Texas native, which is a good thing. I guess. So, all that being said, I think maybe I’ll leave the vine in place this year and see what happens. I might be sorry later, but I’ll try any plant once!
Does anyone have anything positive to say about saw greenbrier?