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
I need an evergreen vine to hide an ugly fence. February 24, 2009 - I am looking to find a vine that will be on my south facing fence. I would like it to be evergreen as to hide my ugly fence. view the full question and answer
Identification of a vine with thorns and blue berries. April 22, 2008 - > Hello,
> We have acreage in Butler County, PA. I recently discovered a vine that I can't identify. It's has many small spines all over the stem, then very large and stiff thorns. It has dark gr... 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
Need plants to cover a fence and retaining wall combination January 27, 2010 - Recently we replaced our fence and I need help with plants to mask an 18 foot section of fence/retaining wall. The fence guy set the fence back about 10 inches from the top of the retaining wall which... view the full question and answer
Vines for Austin, Texas July 23, 2010 - I have heavy clay soil that is very wet during rainy season. I would like to plant climbing, blooming native. Crossvine and trumpet creeper are doing well but need another vine for an area that gets f... view the full question and answer