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Bamboo Briar

Scientific Name: Smilax sp.

Family: Smilaceae


Other names: Greenbrier, Horsebrier, Bullbrier

Cautions: Do not confuse with Toxicodendron sp.

Herbarium Image: Coming Soon


Native, perennial, climbing vine with thorny stems and pinnately netted leaves. Female plants produce fruit with green berries in clusters of four which ripen from red to black.

Traditional Medicinal Use

Bamboo briar is not used among local tribes for medicine, but the woodly vein is used to make smoking pipes, by the Haliwa-Saponi. Other tribes, such as the Cherokee used the plant to treat small pox and as a wash for various skin

conditions (1).

Family Cooking

The rhizomes and shoots are edible. Sarsaparillia was traditionally made from the rhizomes of

S. asper mixed with sassafras (2). 

Several Open Books

1. Hamel, P.  and Chiltoskey, M. Cherokee Plants and Their Uses -- A 400 Year History. 1975, Sylva, N.C.: Herald Publishing Co.

2. Smilax asper L. (Smilacaceae). 2018; Available from:

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