Winter Vine ID: Carrion-flower

Photo of Carrion-flower

Several times a week, I drive past this plant whose dark, round clusters of fruit stand out in the snowy landscape.  Up close, this plant is recognized as a branching herbaceous vine, bearing tendrils and a few withered simple leaves.  This is Carrion-flower (Smilax herbacea), a prinkle-free, non-woody relative of the heavily armed, woody stemmed Common Greenbrier (S. rotundifolia).

Carrion-flower's fruits are born in umbels, which are composed of short stalks radiating from a central point (the nearly fruitless example below provides a look at the umbel's structure).  Note the location of plants you find in the white season, and you can return in the spring to observe the new green growth.  In fact, you may want to sample the rapidly growing tips of this plant, which are edible both raw and cooked.

Photo of Carrion-flower

2 thoughts on “Winter Vine ID: Carrion-flower”

  1. Hey Josh, the two pictures are hard to justify. They must be the same berry, but the top picture looks like blackberries and not like an umbel at all. Do you have a picture of the flower?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mal. Perhaps a size reference would have helped. The top photo contains fruit clusters roughly 2″ wide, significantly larger and rounder than any blackberries (Rubus sp.) I’ve seen. One photo at GoBotany depicts a similar sized cluster, up close. I’ll try to get photos of the flowers this year. I was living in Massachusetts when these plants were blooming last year.

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