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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - May 21, 2013

From: Three Oaks, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Vines
Title: Identification of thorny vine in Michigan
Answered by: Nan Hampton


We have a species growing around our rural SW Michigan property that I'm trying to identify: I either see stalks up to 3 ft tall, or much longer vines if they find anchor. The most notable characteristic are the "cat's claw" thorns along the stalks/vines that can form a painful thicket, pierce through work gloves, and be a nightmare to remove. Those "cat's claw" thorns look more like a cat's claw than the thorns of the vine commonly known by that name, and that vine shouldn't even be in North America. Do you know what it is?


There are a couple of vines native to Michigan that could be your thorny species:

Smilax rotundifolia (Roundleaf greenbrier)  Here are photos and more information from Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.  Here is a description of the plant from eFloras.org.  Here are photos from the Herbarium at the University of Michigan.

Smilax tamnoides (Bristly greenbrier)  Here are photos and more information from Virginia Tech.  Here is a description of the plant from eFloras.org.  Here's information from the University of Michigan.

They will both form thickets that are almost impenetrable.

If neither of these is your plant, you should photograph it and visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that will accept photos for identification.

There is an invasive vine from Central America called Macfadyene unguis-cati (Catclaw-vine), but it is limited to states of the Gulf Coast (Texas, Louisiana, Florida) and Hawaii and, thus, is unlikely to be growing in Michigan.


More Plant Identification Questions

Identification of wildflowers in Wyoming
July 15, 2007 - I have taken some photos of wildflowers in Wyoming and although I have looked in several books and this website, I am still unable to identify a few. 1) very small white and lt. blue flower with 5 sep...
view the full question and answer

Non-blooming orange bell plant
June 15, 2008 - My orange bell plant is not blooming. I live in Central Texas where it is hot. The plant has part sun, part shade. Is there any way to help it bloom?
view the full question and answer

Lycopodium digitatum for Christmas wreaths
December 21, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, That's it! The plant "Lycopodium Digitatum" posted on your website on Dec. 20, 2008 in response to my question about the proper name of "Crow's Feet" is indeed the pla...
view the full question and answer

Mystery forest plant in WV
May 21, 2012 - In the mountains of southern WV I have several acres of shady, moist land. It has never been developed and is COVERED with a low growing fern?ground cover?whatever. It creeps along on very shallow r...
view the full question and answer

Photo identification from Sun Tan Valley AZ
June 29, 2013 - I just tried sending y'all some photos of a plant I'd like to identify. The email address failed. Please let me know how I can get these 3 photos sent.
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center