Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Smilax rotundifolia


SPECIES: Smilax rotundifolia
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Carey, Jennifer H. 1994. Smilax rotundifolia. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : SMIROT SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : SMRO COMMON NAMES : common greenbrier roundleaf greenbrier TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for common greenbrier is Smilax rotundifolia L. (Smilacaceae) [13,31]. Some authors recognize a variant: S. r. var. quadrangularis (Muhl.) Wood [34,40,43]. LIFE FORM : Vine FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : See OTHER STATUS OTHER STATUS : Common greenbrier is listed as rare in Canada [1]. It is the only woody monocot in southern Canada [22].


SPECIES: Smilax rotundifolia
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Common greenbrier occurs throughout the eastern United States.  Its range extends as far north as southern Nova Scotia and southern Ontario and continues west to southern Michigan, Indiana, and southern Illinois; south through southeastern Missouri to eastern Texas; and east to northern Florida [13,14,31,34]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES10  White - red - jack pine    FRES11  Spruce - fir    FRES12  Longleaf - slash pine    FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine    FRES14  Oak - pine    FRES15  Oak - hickory    FRES16  Oak - gum - cypress    FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood    FRES18  Maple - beech - birch STATES :      AL  AR  CT  DE  FL  GA  IL  IN  KY  LA      ME  MD  MA  MI  MS  MO  NH  NJ  NY  NC      OH  OK  PA  RI  SC  TN  TX  VT  VA  WV      NS  ON BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K089  Black Belt    K095  Great Lakes pine forest    K097  Southeastern spruce-fir forest    K098  Northern floodplain forest    K100  Oak - hickory forest    K103  Mixed mesophytic forest    K104  Appalachian oak forest    K106  Northern hardwoods    K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest    K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest    K112  Southern mixed forest    K113  Southern floodplain forest SAF COVER TYPES :     20  White pine - northern red oak - red maple     21  Eastern white pine     23  Eastern hemlock     30  Red spruce - yellow birch     32  Red spruce     44  Chestnut oak     45  Pitch pine     46  Eastern redcedar     53  White oak     70  Longleaf pine     79  Virginia pine     81  Loblolly pine     82  Loblolly pine - hardwood     83  Longleaf pine - slash pine     95  Black willow     97  Atlantic white-cedar     98  Pond pine    108  Red maple    110  Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Common greenbrier occurs in a wide variety of plant communities. Understory associates of common greenbrier in moist woods include mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), grape (Vitis spp.), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), New York fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), cat greenbrier (Smilax glauca), cane (Arundinaria gigantea), eastern poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). [2,12,18,17]. In Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) communities in North Carolina, common greenbrier occurs with sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), redbay (Persea borbonia), large gallberry (Ilex coriacea), hurrahbush (Lyonia lucida), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), and cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) [25]. In drier woods, heath balds, heath-shrub communities, and rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.) thickets, common greenbrier occurs with black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), hillside blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), and low sweet blueberry (V. angustifolia).  Other associates of dry sites include mountain-laurel (Kalmia latifolia), swamp dog-laurel (Leucothoe axillaris), Carolina holly (Ilex ambigua), and mountain white-alder (Clethra acuminata) [6,42,44]. Common greenbrier occurs in old fields with black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), blackberry (Rubus spp.), blueberry, and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) [12].


SPECIES: Smilax rotundifolia
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Numerous birds and animals eat common greenbrier fruits.  The persistent fruits are an important late winter and early spring food for wintering birds including northern cardinals and white-throated sparrows [2]. White-tailed deer and lagomorphs browse the foliage [4,12,15,16]. Common greenbrier forms impenetrable thickets of prickly branches which probably create good cover for small mammals and birds. PALATABILITY : The green canes, tender shoots, and leaves are palatable to white-tailed deer [15,16]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Ehrenfeld [9] determined nitrogen concentrations of common greenbrier leaves and new twigs from four wetland communities in the New Jersey pine barrens.  Nitrogen concentrations were 1.28 percent dry weight in the floodplain community, 1.52 in the pine lowlands, 1.89 in the wet hardwoods, and 2.09 in the dry hardwoods.  Nitrogen concentrations of common greenbrier stems on all sites averaged 0.61 percent dry weight [9]. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Niering and Goodwin [29] recommend common greenbrier and other clonal shrubs for right-of-way clearings where trees interfere with powerlines. Dense common greenbrier, hillside blueberry, and black huckleberry thickets resisted invasion of trees for at least 15 years in a right-of-way from which trees were originally removed by herbicide application. In Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, common greenbrier was more important close to trails than in inaccessible areas, suggesting that it is resistant to disturbance [19]. Medium and heavy thinning of a Louisiana loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantation increased greenbrier (Smilax spp.) productivity [4]. Greenbriers (Smilax spp.) are resistant to most herbicides [47].  Two years after a late summer application of glyphosate, common greenbrier foliage appeared normal and healthy [41]. Propagation and eradication techniques are described for common greenbrier [12].


SPECIES: Smilax rotundifolia
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Common greenbrier is a native liana that uses tendrils to climb 10 to 20 feet (3-6 m).  The leathery leaves are deciduous, although sometimes tardily so in the southeastern states.  The stems are usually quadrangular and diffusely branched with flattened prickles up to 0.3 inches (0.8 cm) long.  The fruit is a berry [13,14,31,40].  Common greenbrier has long, slender, nontuberous rhizomes near the soil surface [14,15,24].  Common greenbrier canes live 2 to 4 years [15]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :    Phanerophyte    Chamaephyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Common greenbrier regenerates by rhizomes and seed.  Rhizomes persist for years after the plant has been top-killed by fire or other disturbance [15]. On mesic sites in Connecticut dominated by shrubs, common greenbrier clones averaged 10 inches (25 cm) of radial expansion a year.  On xeric sites where drought and browsing by lagomorphs restricted growth, common greenbrier clones decreased an average of 2 inches (5 cm) a year [29]. On sites in Ontario, common greenbrier did not spread vegetatively [22]. Common greenbrier produces some fruit every year [30].  Seeds are dispersed by animals and water [26].  Seeds often germinate when disturbance increases the amount of light on the soil and brings buried seeds to the surface [30].  Pogge and Bearce [30] tested common greenbrier seeds for total and potential germination.  Exposure to light substantially increased germination.  Seeds stored for 5 years at 36 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (2-7 deg C) and about 2 percent moisture content had high viability. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Common greenbrier is generally a submesic species, but extends onto subxeric and xeric sites [42].  It occurs on a wide variety of sites; these include south slopes and ridgetops in the southern Appalachian Mountains [6,42], low damp flatwoods on the lower Atlantic Coastal Plain [14], the inland coastal plain of Nova Scotia [33], and banks of freshwater swamps in Massachusetts [7].  Optimum soil pH is 5.0 to 6.0 [12]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Common greenbrier is a pioneering species as well as a component of forest understories.  Although it grows in low light conditions, common greenbrier is also capable of relatively high photosynthetic rates in full sunlight [5].  Shading of 10 to 20 percent of full sunlight may be optimal, but good fruit production occurred in 70 to 80 percent shade in West Virginia [12]. Common greenbrier is often found on recently logged sites, roadsides, and old fields [12,13,20].  Once vines such as common greenbrier become established on disturbed sites, they may dominate the early successional stages [26]. Hemond and others [20] use common greenbrier cover greater than 5 percent as an indicator of 40- to 50-year-old forests of old-field origin in southern Connecticut.  Common greenbrier declined more than 50 percent over 20 years of observation in this forest [20]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Common greenbrier flowers from April to May in the southeastern states [21,31,43], from May to June in the northeastern states [12,13], and in June in southern Canada [34,35].  Fruits ripen in the fall.  All annual growth is completed in a short time in the spring [12].


SPECIES: Smilax rotundifolia
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Common greenbrier resists fire by sprouting from rhizomes [15,27,28]. Canopy openings caused by fire may favor common greenbrier.  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 rotundifolia
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Common greenbrier is top-killed by fire [46]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Common greenbrier sprouts from rhizomes after fire.  Common greenbrier responded with vigorous vegetative reproduction to spring and fall prescribed fires in eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and eastern white pine-hardwood forests in New Hampshire.  The fires were of low intensity, with flames greater than 20 inches (50 cm) high, and burned only the surface litter layer [46]. Common greenbrier sprouted after an early March headfire in a young eastern Texas loblolly pine-shortleaf pine (P. echinata)-hardwood forest.  The fire consumed 80 to 90 percent of the previous year's needle and leaf fall and about 50 percent of the older accumulated litter.  The average common greenbrier height 2 years after the fire was 46 inches (118 cm) with an average of 1.60 stems per plant.  Average height on the unburned control was 187 inches (476 cm) with an average of 1.73 stems per plant [37]. Annual and biennial early April fires were conducted in little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) grasslands in Connecticut [27,28].  The study sites were on agricultural lands abandoned 40 to 60 years previously and had up to 40 percent woody cover of clonal shrubs.  After 15 years of burning, common greenbrier frequency increased over prefire levels on one plot but decreased slightly on another due to heavy lagomorph use of succulent postfire shoots.  Cover of common greenbrier changed very little during the 18-year study, so the authors classified common greenbrier as a persistent species rather than an increaser.  On unburned plots adjacent to the burns, common greenbrier increased in cover and frequency over the duration of the study.
The Research Project Summary Early postfire response of southern Appalachian
Table Mountain-pitch pine stands to prescribed fires in North Carolina and
provides information on prescribed fire use and postfire response
of plant community species, including common greenbrier, that was not
available when this species review was originally written.
Common greenbrier foliage was sampled 1 and 2 years after low-severity
and high-severity fires and compared to common greenbrier foliage in
unburned areas.  The first growing season after the low-severity fire,
common greenbrier protein content was 7.8 percent higher than on
unburned areas, but no difference was detected the second postfire
growing season.  One and two years after the high-severity fire, the
protein contents were 6 percent and 19 percent higher, respectively,
than foliage from unburned areas.  Neither fire produced substantial
changes in total solids, ash, ether content, crude fiber, or
nitrogen-free extract [8].

Greenbrier spp. (Smilax rotundifolia and S. laurifolia) are a component
of several fuel models for the coastal plain of North Carolina.  They
contribute to ladder fuels in the high pocosin type.  Greenbrier
intertwines with grass species in some types, impeding foot travel [45].


SPECIES: Smilax rotundifolia
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