En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Recognizing poison ivy
June 20, 2007 - I am having a difficult time identifying poison ivy. It seems so many plants look like poison ivy can you help me I don't want to kill everything but on the same hand I don't want to itch. Thanks f...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of vine in Ohio
September 21, 2010 - I have a vine in my forest that grows up trees, that could eventually pull them over. It has roundleaves and prickers on the stem. What is this vine so I can research it?
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive Asiatic Jasmine from Austin
October 25, 2012 - Is Trachelospermum asiaticum considered a native texas plant? Is there an example growing at the Center that can be viewed?
view the full question and answer

Green wall panel for Dallas
August 21, 2007 - We are working on a green wall panel for a hotel near SMU--I see your list of recommended species for green roofs, & wondered if you have any ideas for vertical applications. Probably will have someth...
view the full question and answer

Purple leatherflower with white bloom
July 17, 2014 - A couple of years ago at the wildflower center native plant sale I bought a purple leatherflower according to the tag. This is the first year it has bloomed and the blooms are pure white. The shape ma...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center