From:Hampton, VA Region: Mid-Atlantic Topic: Vines Title: Possibility of growing Smilax pumila (Wild Sarsaparilla Vine in Virginia Answered by: Dean Garrett
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!
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
Vine for Patio Wall in D.C. June 03, 2013 - I have a concrete patio wall 4 feet tall and 9 feet long in Washington, D.C. The wall runs east to west and there is a patio above it. I am looking for vines to cover it so that I would not have to lo... view the full question and answer
climbing vine for growth in sand July 11, 2012 - I live in Grand Beach, MI. My house sits on a sand dune. I want to plant a flowering vine that will grow up a fence. The area has plenty of sand and I have a trickle watering system. Can you pleas... view the full question and answer
Do monarchs like Cynachum laeve in Austin, TX? May 29, 2012 - I have found what I believe is Honeyvine (Cynanchum laeve)
growing in my yard here in Austin. I tried using the LBJWC
plant data base and could not find it. I also found the plant with a diff... view the full question and answer
Vine in New Braunfels for Baytown, TX July 25, 2009 - I have seen a vine in New Braunfels that looks nothing like the trumpet vine or trumpet creeper; however, the flower is almost identical. The flower is more pink though, and the leaves look more like... view the full question and answer
Plants for a Steep, Sunny Slope in Iowa April 28, 2013 - I am looking for plants native to Iowa for a steep, sunny slope or groundcover. view the full question and answer