An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions/Smilaceae

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Family 25.   SmilàceaeVent.   Tabl. 2: 146.   1799*.
Smilax Family.

Mostly. vines, with woody or herbaceous, often prickly stems.  Leaves alternate, netted-veined, usually punctate or lineolate, several-nerved, petioled.  Petiole sheathing, bearing a pair of slender tendril-like appendages (stipules?), persistent, the blade falling away.  Flowers small, mostly green, dioecious, in axillary umbels.  Perianth-segments 6.  Stamens mostly 6, distinct; filaments ligulate; anthers basifixed, 2-celled, introrse.  Ovary 3-celled, the cavities opposite the inner perianthsegments; ovules 1 or 2 in each cavity, orthotropous, suspended; style very short or none; stigmas 1-3.  Fruit a globose berry containing 1-6 seeds.  Seeds brownish; endosperm horny, copious; embryo small, oblong, remote from the hilum.

Genera 3; species about 200, in warm and temperate regions; only the following in North America.

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* Text contributed to the first edition by the late Rev. Thomas Morong.

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Rootstocks usually very large and tuberous, stems usually twining, and climbing by means of the spirally coiling appendages of the petiole.  Lower leaves reduced to scales; upper leaves entire or lobed.  Flowers regular.  Perianth-segments distinct, deciduous.  Pedicels borne on a globose or conic receptacle, inserted in small pits, generally among minute bractlets.  Filaments inserted on the bases of the perianth-segments.  Staminate flowers without an ovary.  Pistillate flowers usually smaller than the staminate, with an ovary and usually with 1-6 abortive stamens.  Berry black, red or purple (rarely white), with 3 strengthening bands of tissue running through the outer part of the pulp, connected at the base and apex.  Embryo lying under a tubercle at the upper end of the seed.  [Ancient Greek name, perhaps not originally applied to these plants.]

About 225 species of wide distribution, most abundant in tropical America and Asia.  Besides the following, about 12 others occur in the southern United States and 1 in California and Oregon.  Type species: Smilax áspera L.