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Smilax L.

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Smilax aspera at Sète (France)
Order [[{{{order}}}]]
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For a history of sarsaparillas, see the page Salsepareille (fr).


There are about 300 species, distributed in all the continents and climates.

  • All species are dioecious.
  • Most are prickly
  • Most have petiolar paired tendrils
  • Most are climbers, some being more bushy.
  • Leaves are alternate, petiolate, entire, acute.
  • Inflorescences are simple umbels or racemes of umbels.
  • Fruit is a berry


Smilax L. (1753)


Species important against syphilis

'True' sarsaparillas came from the Americas. They are :

China root, Smilax china, imported from China, has to be added.

Their classification and nomenclature remain confuse, as sarsaparillas were designated in trade by their geographical origins, and they were gathered in the wild. As they no longer have any importance in international trade and pharmacopaeas, there is quite no recent synthesis.

Species eaten for their starchy rhizome

Some species are eaten for their starchy rhizomes:

List of all species on Pl@ntUse


  • Kubitzki K. (ed.), 1990- on going. The families and genera of vascular plants. Berlin, Heidelberg, New-York, Springer. 3. Flowering plants. Monocotyledons. Lilianae (except Orchidaceae). 1998. X-478 p.