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
Inducing flowering on vines August 27, 2008 - My daughter presented me with a lovely Passiflora coccinea a few months ago. It is growing marvelously in full sun at the base of a pine tree. I'm wondering, though, if I were to limit the amount o... view the full question and answer
Front Door Vine in Alabama March 02, 2013 - I live in Birmingham, AL in a large-scale, white brick, French-style home. I would like to have a vine over my front door. I don't want an invasive vine (seed pods that create new vines or attaches t... view the full question and answer
Question about male muscadine plants June 01, 2012 - I have 9 muscadine plants, 3 females and 6 perfect flowered growing in my yard. A plant started growing under my porch lst year and it grew through the spaces between the boards. It grew nicely. It fl... view the full question and answer
Attractive Native Vines to Cover a Chain Link Fence in Upstate New York September 19, 2009 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants. I live in Upstate NY (Albany) and my yard is bordered by an old chain link fence. I would like to cover the fence with a natural looking plant (I assume Ivy). What do you ... view the full question and answer
Identification of vine in New York May 15, 2012 - I have a flowering vine that grows against my home and I'm not sure what it is, but it's beautiful with a delicate scent. The flowers look like clusters of mini purple pea pods hanging downward befo... view the full question and answer