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SPECIES:  Smilax bona-nox


SPECIES: Smilax bona-nox
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Smilax bona-nox. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : SMIBON SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : SMBO2 COMMON NAMES : saw greenbrier greenbrier catbrier bullbrier chinabrier tramp's trouble TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for saw greenbrier is Smilax bona-nox L. (Smilacaceae, formerly Liliaceae) [12,16,19,30,41]. The following varieties are recognized by various authors: S. b. var. bona-nox S. b. var. hastata (Willd.) DC [12,30,41] S. b. var. exaruiculata Fern. [12,41] S. b. var. hederaefolia (Beyrich) Fern. [12,30,34,41] S. b. var. littoralis Coker [41] Throughout this write-up, the term 'greenbrier' will be used to refer to cases where other Smilax species are treated with saw greenbrier, or where Smilax species are undifferentiated. LIFE FORM : Vine FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Smilax bona-nox
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The range of saw greenbrier extends from Florida to Texas and eastern Mexico, north to Maryland, Kentucky, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, Missouri, and southeastern Kansas [12,16,17,34]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood STATES : AL AR FL GA IL IN KS KY LA MD MS MO NC OK SC TN TX VA MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 14 Great Plains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K081 Oak savanna K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100 K084 Cross Timbers K089 Black Belt K092 Everglades K100 Oak - hickory forest K104 Appalachian oak forest K105 Mangrove K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest K114 Pocosin K115 Sand pine scrub K116 Subtropical pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak 53 White oak 57 Yellow-poplar 63 Cottonwood 62 Silver maple - American elm 70 Longleaf pine 71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak 73 Southern redcedar 75 Shortleaf pine 76 Shortleaf pine - oak 78 Virginia pine - oak 81 Loblolly pine 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 87 Sweetgum - yellow-poplar 88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak 89 Live oak 92 Sweetgum - willow oak 93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash 94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm 97 Atlantic white-cedar 102 Baldcypress - tupelo 103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo 104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay 110 Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Saw greenbrier occurs in a wide variety of habitat and community types, and is not characteristic of any particular conditions. Its most common understory associates include muscadine grape (Vitus rotundifolia), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), trumpetcreeper (Campsis radicans), peppervine (Ampelopsis arborea), Alabama supplejack (Berchemia scandens), and eastern poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) [2,6,11,25,39].

Management Considerations

SPECIES: Smilax bona-nox
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : The fruits of saw greenbrier are eaten by wood ducks, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, fish crows, black bears, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, and many species of songbirds [7]. White-tailed deer browse the foliage [5,19,43]. The commonly low and straggling growth form of saw greenbrier tends to form an impenetrable mass of prickly branches, which creates good cover for small mammals and birds [34]. In Kansas, an increase in the numbers of white-footed mice was associated with an increase in woody and weedy species (including saw greenbrier); the increase in mice was attributed to increased low cover. The mice were rare on the study site prior to the loss of an American elm overstory due to Dutch elm disease [13]. PALATABILITY : Saw greenbrier is palatable browse for white-tailed deer [6]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Saw greenbrier occurred on unreclaimed lignite surface mine sites in east-central Texas. It was recorded on 15-, 30-, and 50-year-old sites and in adjacent undisturbed forest. Its highest frequency occurred in undisturbed forest sites [33]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Saw greenbrier productivity in the understory of a loblolly pine plantation was highest under medium thinning intensities [5]. Closed canopy plantations produced little browse [6]. Saw greenbrier is considered a pest species in some areas; it is difficult to eradicate due to its persistent woody rhizome [7]. It is resistant to most herbicides, but can be controlled with karbutilate [42].


SPECIES: Smilax bona-nox
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Saw greenbrier is a native, evergreen [8] to semievergreen [16] or deciduous [7], rhizomatous liana up to 26 feet (8 m) in length [12]. The quadrate stems and branches have scattered to numerous stiff prickles [7,12]. There are two forms of rhizomes: ligneous, thickened, knotty tubers 0.8 to 2.4 inches (2-6 cm) thick in clusters up to 7.9 inches (20 cm) across [23], and more slender rhizomes which give rise to the erect stems [7,12,16,23]. The inflorescence is an umbel borne on an axillary peduncle. The fruit is a one-seeded drupe [30]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Saw greenbrier reproduces by seed and by rhizomes. The seeds are animal dispersed and can be carried long distances by birds [8]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Saw greenbrier occurs in a variety of habitats, including dry and wet woods, thickets, and hammocks, and disturbed sites such as clearings, roadsides, fencerows, and old fields. It tolerates a wide variety of soils, including dry to moist sands, rocky soils, rich loams, and saturated swamp soils high in organic matter [7,10,12,16,34,41]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Saw greenbrier is often found in early seres and disturbed sites. It is listed with other plants characterized as early arrivals following disturbance [8]. In sand dune succession of barrier islands off North Carolina, several vines successively colonize inland dunes: Virginia creeper, eastern poison-ivy, and saw greenbrier [2]. Saw greenbrier was reported from years 0 to 10 in oldfield succession in Georgia, but was not discussed for later stages and the authors implied that the early colonizers were crowded out by Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and other species [27]. Saw greenbrier was the most widely distributed and abundant vine on a 3-year-old gravel pit in eastern Texas. It was present in successively lower numbers on a 5-year-old gravel pit, a 47-year-old gravel pit, and the adjacent unexcavated forest [44]. In Kansas, loss of American elms (Ulmus americana) to Dutch elm disease further opened an already open canopy and created conditions where cover values of woody and weedy species increased, including that of saw greenbrier [13]. In Florida, saw greenbrier occurred in a stand composed of large, old trees (mostly laurel oak [Quercus laurifolia], pignut hickory [Carya glabra], and magnolia [Magnolia grandiflora]) with no evidence of past fire, logging, or grazing [8]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Saw greenbrier flowers from April to May [17,19,30], April to June [41], or May to July [7] depending on latitude. The fruit ripens from September to October, persisting on the vine through the winter [7,19,34].


SPECIES: Smilax bona-nox
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Saw greenbrier is tolerant of periodic fire because it will sprout from the rhizomes when top-killed. It is not dependent on fire for regeneration; it occurs in both fire-tolerant communities and communities which infrequently experience fire. Saw greenbrier occurs in the pine flatwoods of the lower Atlantic Coastal Plain, which were historically maintained in open condition by periodic fire, and are now managed with prescribed fires [15]. Similarly, it is often found in longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) communities which were also historically maintained by fire. Longleaf pine communities have largely been replaced by other communities, mostly loblolly pine, which can also be managed with prescribed fire [43]. Saw greenbrier is a member of Florida bay swamps, which experience fire on the average of once per century [10]. Where saw greenbrier occurs on Cumberland Island, Georgia, its distribution is probably only partly affected by fire. The scrub and marsh communities on Cumberland Island historically experienced wildfires approximately every 20 to 27 years. Oak (Quercus spp.)/saw-palmetto (Serenoa repens) communities are vulnerable to fires burning into them from adjacent scrub or marsh. Greenbriers occurred on forested sites, decreased at forest/marsh and forest/scrub interfaces, and were not present in interior marsh and scrub sites. The authors concluded that the marsh/forest and scrub/forest boundaries are controlled by fluctuation in the water table and not by fire [26]. FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Smilax bona-nox
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Saw greenbrier is probably top-killed by most fires and subsequently sprouts from the rhizomes. Mortality due to a winter prescribed fire in Texas ranged from 11 percent to 31 percent for most understory plants, including saw greenbrier [36]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : In Oklahoma, a post oak (Quercus stellata)-blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica) and tallgrass prairie mosaic was subjected to prescribed fire to determine the response of understory species to fire and timing of fire. The groundlayer vegetation was dominated by little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). Saw greenbrier was present only on sites that were selected to receive prescribed fire in summer (July 1979), and showed very little difference in cover following the fire [1]. In Texas, a prescribed fire in March, 1974, consumed 80 to 90 percent of the previous year's needle and leaf cast and 50 percent of old litter under a loblolly pine-shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) plantation. Average saw greenbrier height decreased from 11.8 feet (3.60 m) to 4.79 feet (1.46 m) and the average number of stems per plant increased from 1.47 to 1.62 (measured July 1975) [36]. Also in Texas, prescribed surface fires were conducted in February, 1982 to assess the response of vegetation under either Plateau oak (Quercus fusiformis) or post oak. By July, saw greenbrier had increased in relative dominance and frequency on both site types [20]. The Research Project Summary, Response of herbaceous vegetation to winter burning in Texas oak savanna provides information on postfire response of associated herbaceous species in this study. In Florida, frequent prescribed fires in longleaf pine-slash pine (Pinus elliotii) communities have prevented the formation of a hardwood midstory. Saw greenbrier was the most common vine in these fire-maintained stands [38]. Also in Florida, longleaf pine-turkey oak (Quercus laevis) stands were subjected to periodic prescribed fire. Greenbriers were present in low numbers (15 percent occurrence) and were subjected to heavy spring browsing (90 percent of twigs browsed=90 percent utilization) on 1-year-old burns. Greenbriers were not reported from study plots that represented postfire years 2, 3, and 4 [18]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Since herbicides alone do not control saw greenbrier, prescribed burning has been suggested to help hold it to desired densities for wildlife habitat and to improve its browse value [32]. However, in the Cross Timbers of Oklahoma, herbicides plus annual spring fires had no effect on saw greenbrier cover [37].


SPECIES: Smilax bona-nox

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