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Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

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Smilax pumila (Sarsaparilla vine)
Cressler, Alan

Smilax pumila

Smilax pumila Walter

Sarsaparilla Vine, Wild Sarsaparilla, Dwarf Smilax, Dwarf Greenbriar

Smilacaceae (Catbrier Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Unlike many other native smilaxes, Smilax pumila is virtually thornless, so it is safe to use as a low-growing and low-climbing evergreen groundcover in dry, partly shaded areas of the Southeast. Its leaves are mottled in two shades of green and it displays glossy clusters of red berries in winter. Its natural habitat is in pine forests and Post Oak (Quercus stellata) woods of the Coastal Plain, so fast-draining, loose soils low in nutrients are ideal for it.


From the Image Gallery

4 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Vine
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Stems prostrate to clambering, up to about 3 feet long.
Leaf: Medium green mottled with whitish green. Red tinge in winter.
Fruit: Red or orange, glossy 1 to 2 inch clusters

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Oct , Nov
Bloom Notes: Yellowish green in color.


USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , LA , MS , SC , TX
Native Distribution: Southeastern coastal plain from South Carolina to Texas, Zones 8 to 9
Native Habitat: Dryish, sandy woodlands and sandhills

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Drought Tolerance: High
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Poor, dry sands preferred


Use Ornamental: A good evergreen groundcover for partly shady areas in the Southeast with poor, fast-draining soils
Use Wildlife: Fruits attract birds and mammals
Use Food: Roots used to flavor root beer and other beverages
Use Medicinal: Rhizomes used to treat rheumatism
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Possibility of growing Smilax pumila (Wild Sarsaparilla Vine in Virginia
June 13, 2006
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 nat...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 57 - Atlas of Florida Plants (2020) Institute for Systematic Botany
Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Smilax pumila in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Smilax pumila in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Smilax pumila


Record Modified: 2023-05-22
Research By: DEW

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