Smilax herbacea L.
Nemexia herbacea (L.) Small
Smooth carrion flower, carrion vine, herbaceous carrion flower, smooth herbaceous greenbrier
Smooth carrion flowers are North American natives.
Identification: Smooth carrion flower has a number of striking characteristics, so you aren’t likely to confuse it with other plants. It is a vine, up to 10' (3 m) long, with curling tendrils that grasp nearby plants. It has a smooth, pale green stem; most vines have woody stems. It has egg-shaped alternate leaves up to 3½" (8.9 cm) long, with smooth edges and shiny surfaces. If it is flowering, the flowers are arranged in ball-shaped clusters. The individual 6-petalled flowers are ½" (1.3 cm) across, and green. Usually flowers stand out, so green is a very uncommon color, but these flowers have another way of attracting their pollinators: they smell like carrion. Female flower clusters form tight green balls; while male clusters are looser, the individual flowers a bit spider-like in appearance, with tiny white stamens. Fruits are tight round balls of dark blue berries, each berry about ⅜" (1 cm) in diameter.
Edibility: The leaves and young shoots may be eaten raw or boiled for 15 minutes like asparagus. The roots, properly processed, yield a gelatin-like extract.
Smilax herbacea on Ontario Wildflowers
Smilax herbacea on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site
Smilax herbacea at Illinois Wildflowers
Smilax herbacea on eFloras
Smilax herbacea on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Smilax herbacea description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.