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SPECIES:  Smilax rotundifolia
Roundleaf greenbrier leaves. WikiMedia image by Fepup.

Roundleaf greenbrier fruits in winter. WikiMedia image by SB_Johnny - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,



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: []. Revisions: On 2 March 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: common greenbrier to: roundleaf greenbrier. Images were also added.
ABBREVIATION: SMIROT SYNONYMS: Smilax rotundifolia L. var. crenulata Small & A. Heller Smilax rotundifolia L. var. quadrangularis (Muhl. ex Willd.) Alph. Wood [34,40,43] NRCS PLANT CODE [48]: SMRO COMMON NAMES: roundleaf greenbrier common greenbrier TAXONOMY: The scientific name of roundleaf greenbrier is Smilax rotundifolia L. (Smilacaceae) [13,31]. LIFE FORM: Vine FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: None OTHER STATUS: Roundleaf greenbrier is listed as rare in Canada [1]. It is the only woody monocot in southern Canada [22].


SPECIES: Smilax rotundifolia
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Roundleaf 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].
Distribution of roundleaf greenbrier. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, April 9] [48].

   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

     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


   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

    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

Roundleaf greenbrier occurs in a wide variety of plant communities.
Understory associates of roundleaf 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, roundleaf 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, roundleaf 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].

Roundleaf 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 roundleaf 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]. Roundleaf 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 roundleaf 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 roundleaf 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 roundleaf greenbrier and other clonal shrubs for right-of-way clearings where trees interfere with powerlines. Dense roundleaf 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, roundleaf 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, roundleaf greenbrier foliage appeared normal and healthy [41]. Propagation and eradication techniques are described for roundleaf greenbrier [12].


SPECIES: Smilax rotundifolia
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Roundleaf 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].  Roundleaf greenbrier has long, slender, nontuberous rhizomes near the soil surface [14,15,24].  Roundleaf greenbrier canes live 2 to 4 years [15]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Phanerophyte Chamaephyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Roundleaf 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, roundleaf greenbrier clones averaged 10 inches (25 cm) of radial expansion a year.  On xeric sites where drought and browsing by lagomorphs restricted growth, roundleaf greenbrier clones decreased an average of 2 inches (5 cm) a year [29]. On sites in Ontario, roundleaf greenbrier did not spread vegetatively [22]. Roundleaf 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 roundleaf 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: Roundleaf 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: Roundleaf greenbrier is a pioneering species as well as a component of forest understories.  Although it grows in low light conditions, roundleaf 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]. Roundleaf greenbrier is often found on recently logged sites, roadsides, and old fields [12,13,20].  Once vines such as roundleaf greenbrier become established on disturbed sites, they may dominate the early successional stages [26]. Hemond and others [20] use roundleaf greenbrier cover greater than 5 percent as an indicator of 40- to 50-year-old forests of old-field origin in southern Connecticut.  Roundleaf greenbrier declined more than 50 percent over 20 years of observation in this forest [20]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Roundleaf 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: Roundleaf greenbrier resists fire by sprouting from rhizomes [15,27,28]. Canopy openings caused by fire may favor roundleaf 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: Roundleaf greenbrier is top-killed by fire [46]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Roundleaf greenbrier sprouts from rhizomes after fire.  Roundleaf 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]. Roundleaf 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 roundleaf 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, roundleaf 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 roundleaf greenbrier changed very little during the 18-year study, so the authors classified roundleaf greenbrier as a persistent species rather than an increaser.  On unburned plots adjacent to the burns, roundleaf 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 roundleaf greenbrier, that was not
available when this species review was originally written.
Roundleaf greenbrier foliage was sampled 1 and 2 years after low-severity
and high-severity fires and compared to roundleaf greenbrier foliage in
unburned areas.  The first growing season after the low-severity fire,
roundleaf 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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22.  Kevan, Peter G.; Ambrose, John D.; Kemp, James R. 1991. Pollination in an understorey vine, Smilax rotundifolia, a threatened plant of the Carolinian forests in Canada. Canadian Journal of Botany. 69: 2555-2559. [17567]

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25.  Moore, Julie H.; Carter, J. H., III. 1987. Habitats of white cedar in North Carolina. In: Laderman, Aimlee D., ed. Atlantic white cedar wetlands. [Place of publication unknown]: Westview Press: 177-190. [15877]

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