Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Tuesday - June 13, 2006

From: Hampton, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Vines
Title: Possibility of growing Smilax pumila (Wild Sarsaparilla Vine in Virginia
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

Hello, I am inquiring about a plant my grandmother keeps telling me about. It's called sarasee (sp?). It's supposed to have some medicinal properties like helping with a cold and things of that nature. She lives in Miami, FL and it grows on her fence, she said it's not in season right now. She described it as having leaves and yellow berries (it's red on the inside). Do you know where I could find this plant? I live in VA. Thank you for taking the time to read!

ANSWER:

I'm guessing that your grandmother is growing a species of Smilax commonly called sarsaparilla or sasparilla, probably either the native Wild Sarsaparilla Vine (Smilax pumila) or the cultivated Jamaican Sarsaparilla (Smilax regelii). The roots of these vines were and sometimes still are used as an ingredient in root beer and other beverages, in addition to having a few traditional medicinal uses.

The name sarsaparilla is also used for certain species of Aralia that have been used in herbal medicine, but since your grandmother's plant grows on a fence I'm assuming you're referring to a vine.

Smilax pumila is native no further north than South Carolina, but there may be people who have tried to grow it in your region. Search our National Suppliers Directory under Virginia, South Carolina, and Florida to see if any nurseries carry sarsaparilla vines. A brief search of the plant lists of a couple of Florida nurseries didn't reveal any sarsaparilla, but there are many nurseries in Florida.

 

More Vines Questions

Plant to hang over and cover a wall
May 21, 2010 - HI! this is a stumper for me! I have a 6 foot wall bracing a hill on one side and a lawn on the other. It is currently cement and I would like to find something to cover it --evergreen would be the...
view the full question and answer

Perennial vine for full sun, Denton, TX
March 19, 2010 - I would like to grow a perennial vine that would tolerate full sun during the day. A flowering or non-flowering is fine. I do NOT want anything that is poisonous, i.e. Carolina jasmine, since this w...
view the full question and answer

Identity of invasive vine in The Woodlands, Texas
December 02, 2013 - What is the invasive vine covering trees in The Woodlands, Texas?
view the full question and answer

Native plants with little sun and northern exposure for New York
April 26, 2006 - I live in a co-op and want to fix up the backyard. The backyard area has a west area to plant with a northern exposure and little sun and I am looking to plant something to cover the area. I would lik...
view the full question and answer

Non-blossoming trumpet vine
November 05, 2007 - About 9 years ago I started a trumpet vine, from seeds that I got from plants that were invading an empty home. I saw how invasive it was. It had worked its way into the windows and front porch and ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.