Smilax Species, Bull Briar, Greenbriar, Horse Brier, Roundleaf Greenbrier

Smilax rotundifolia

Family: Smilacaceae
Genus: Smilax (SMIL-aks) (Info)
Species: rotundifolia (ro-tun-dih-FOH-lee-uh) (Info)


Vines and Climbers

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade





Provides Winter Interest

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)


Unknown - Tell us


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Pale Green


Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:

Unknown - Tell us


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Bridgeport, Connecticut

Wilton, Connecticut

Bartow, Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

Alma, Georgia

Augusta, Georgia

Decatur, Georgia

Monroe, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

Benton, Kentucky

Halifax, Massachusetts

Mashpee, Massachusetts

South Harwich, Massachusetts

Anoka, Minnesota

Saint Joseph, Missouri

South Sioux City, Nebraska

Clayton, North Carolina(2 reports)

Henderson, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Smithfield, North Carolina

Swansboro, North Carolina

Waxhaw, North Carolina

Wilsons Mills, North Carolina

Glouster, Ohio

Greencastle, Pennsylvania

Millersburg, Pennsylvania

Unionville, Pennsylvania

Conway, South Carolina

Estill, South Carolina

Smoaks, South Carolina

Dickson, Tennessee

Fairview, Tennessee

Brookeland, Texas

De Leon, Texas

Helotes, Texas

Nome, Texas

Plano, Texas

Shelbyville, Texas

Willis, Texas

Woodville, Texas

Radford, Virginia

Troy, Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jun 26, 2018, Lynntoo from Estill, SC wrote:

I just had an acre of pine trees cut and found these tubers (?) by the trunks of the trees where the soil had been disturbed. After a little research on the web, I find out they are these....things!

These are in addition to gobs of Wisteria that someone thought long ago would be a nice thing to plant; of course, over the years the seed pods have dropped/blown around and made more plants. When I first moved into this house, some Wisteria vines were over 2 thick, wrapped around trees...I had to have someone with a chainsaw cut those over 1 because my loppers & I just couldnt do it.

Both are about impossible to kill, from what Ive read, without using extremely poisonous chemicals. Hopefully now that the trees are gone Ill be able to contain the Wiste... read more


On Nov 26, 2017, Bugerbon from Carrabelle, FL wrote:

Whether one is a gardener or not, the Sawtooth Greenbriar vine is a plant in which most people are familiar as it is native to the lower Southeastern States. The Greenbriar vine (Smilax Bona-Nox) is a prickly vine that forms a dense tangle if left alone and whose vines and roots can grow up to 40 foot. The Greenbriar is a night blooming plant that produces small round berries that some species of birds enjoy, the plant uses birds as one form of propagation. The root is another method for this vine to propagate as it roots sprouts, common to a tuberous plant. The Greenbriar forms a large tuber root similar to a sweet potato.

The young growth on a Greenbriar is editable both cooked or eaten in a salad, some suggest it has the flavor of asparagus. Deer are especially fond of e... read more


On Sep 13, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

I would not want this in my yard because of the prickles and it is aggressive, spreading everywhere; however, it is an American native vine and groundcover, of much of the South and East Coast and into OH, IN, & MI, that has value in the wild that is a food source for birds and mammals. The roots, leaves, and young stems are edible for humans. Formerly, I had only seen some shots of it here and there in se PA until I visited a land preserve, Willisbrook, with serpentine soil where there are huge patches of it. Gary Highshoe in his wonderful book of "Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban & Rural America" has included three Greenbriar species in the section on vines..


On May 24, 2015, Scribbles646 from Troup, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

While often said to be 'Invasive' it is actually native throughout much of the United States, it may be fairly undesirable though unless someone is lucky enough to have a thornless variety. New shoot tips are edible and taste a bit like a raw Sugar Pod Pea(perhaps not as sweet) or a raw Green Bean. Berries are said to be edible both raw or cooked in Jellies and Jams but I've not tried them yet. These plants have large tuberous roots that are yellow/orange in color, these roots are edible with a bit of work, they can be sliced then fully dried in the sun, once dried they can be crumbled(or ground), then dropped into a bowl of water to separate the inedible fibers(which float on the surface) from the edible starches which sink to the bottom. Once separated from the fibers the starch can be u... read more


On Apr 10, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

A thorny woody climber that must be a close relative of razor wire. It is native here, but I see impenetrable masses of this that can cover acres. I can't imagine why anyone would plant this in any garden, not even a "wild" garden, that people might hope to walk through.

Topgrowth climbs very quickly, as much as 40' in a season. Deep underground the running root spreads inexorably. Very difficult to kill or restrain. I understand that it can be killed with concentrated Triclopyr herbicide. I'm going to try using Triclopyr on a couple of the properties I manage where it's just getting started.


On Jun 25, 2014, VillyCarl from Plano, TX wrote:

I have rated it negative for several reasons:
1) It is non native and invasive.
2) once established, and this happens quickly, it is very difficult to remove.
3) It spreads easily both by underground roots and by birds spreading the seeds. These roots are deep and hard to dig up.
4) it stores large amounts of water in its roots, so can survive droughts and dry conditions readily.
5) It climbs native plants and trees and will over-top and kill native trees and shrubs.
6) if it is established in your hedges / shrubs / trees it may take years of committed effort to remove.
7) Due to its thickly distributed thorns, it can trap small animals and pets.
8) Its very thorny stems (Vines) make it very difficult to handle.

Counte... read more


On Aug 22, 2013, Marcintosh from Branford, CT wrote:

I have found the way to kill this menace to society.


I don't like to spray pesticides/herbicides. It goes all over the place even if you're careful.
Cut the stems off any way you can or, just shorten them to less than a foot. CLEAR AWAY the debris so you can get at the stump without tripping and stumbling.
Using a foam paint brush, paint / daub the open wounds with ORTHO MAX Poison Ivy & Tough Brush Killer Concentrate.
Full Strength.
- Use fluid proof disposable gloves ( I wear 2 pair Nitrile gloves) and EYE Protection.
DO NOT RUSH THIS PROCESS. Think of this as surgery and take your time.
Cut the stems and remove them our of your way.
Prepare a place ... read more


On Jan 1, 2013, dellalemoine from Browndell, TX wrote:

I actually have a question to post about this thorny vine with a monster root, but I had to give a rating and so I have rated this plant as negative because of my experiences with it as a gardener. As I read the posts of others here, I have become quite interested in this vine and may wish to change my rating after allowing myself to become better acquainted with it.
Now, my in Brookeland in East Texas, we call this vine Devil's Thorn. Has anyone else heard it being referred to by this name?


On May 2, 2012, TheTropix from Woodville, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I live in the Piney Woods area of Texas, near Woodville. I, too, will probably spend the rest of my life trying to dig the "sticker taters" out of my yard. I hate that blankety-blank vine! I've dug into huge colonies and a few huge individuals, as big as a man's arm. I wish terrible things on those vile vines. ; )
I'm not certain exactly which of the several varieties is growing here, but if anyone wants the roots, with or without growth, I'll be happy to help out with freshly dug roots... as many as you want to pay shipping for!!
[email protected]
Zone 8 (almost, but not quite 9)


On Nov 16, 2011, n7andy wrote:

The first time I encountered this plant was several years ago in the Florida Keys. It was like vinyl coated wire with needle-sharp thorns. I had never seen it before, and a neighbor called it "Devil's Bit". I made several attempts to track it down but failed. A few days ago I saw it in a park along a small river in Anoka, Minnesota. I was totally shocked to discover the same "wire" and "needles". I described it to my father and he suggested Briar. I am thrilled to find this site and the information on the vine. It's November and some of the leaves are still on the vines. They remind me of the leaves of the Dutchman's Pipe Vine, except they are ribbed. The vines are loaded with clumps of black/blue berries. There are several places in the park where this vine has climbed small trees.... read more


On Nov 4, 2011, fkintys from Knoxville, TN wrote:

I used to loathe greenbriar, but now that I've discovered the root is of cullinary value I'm going to dig the root. If this plant is a nuiasance to you don't try to kill it...dig it up, dry and grind it and cook with might even make a little money for your effort at the farmers market?


On Sep 20, 2011, bfarner from Cokercreek, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

I have to give this plant a positive rating even though others see it as a nuisance, and/or invasive plant. I personally enjoy "living fences" around my property and encourage my cat briars to grow profusely around the borders of my property. The vine can be trained, but you have to keep on top of it. It doesn't do well intertwined in your petunias!

I do not let it grow up my trees or in other places they are not wanted. They work fairly well when let run along steel wiring like you would a grape arbor that runs along a fence. Yes, they require pruning and cutting back when they get out of control. The only way to get rid of the plant is to dig up the roots entirely. I have seen deer grazing on the tender shoots, and have enjoyed eating them myself, either raw or cooked.
... read more


On May 3, 2011, Henry_Fool from South Harwich, MA wrote:

I once lived in a wooded area by the sea on Cape Cod, but now exist, day to day with botanical stigmata, in a barbed wire wasteland of Smilax rotundifolia. This godless evil first infested the brush, pulling down full-grown shrubs and bending them to its will. From there it took to climbing trees and traveling via insidious vine beneath my feet in the dirty dark, popping up as new insults far from its Crayola flesh toned and malformed body. Poisons do not work, small arms fire is ineffective, and my recent hoodoo Satanic rituals only served to make it angry. Please, i beg you, before i am trapped completely inside by this vicious freak of nature, tell me how to kill it dead and for all time, preferably sans poison.

remember me...


On Nov 18, 2010, jdelutis from Buzzards Bay, MA wrote:

I am still looking for an efficient way to eradicate this noxious plant. It has established in almost 15 acres of sandy upland forest on Cape Cod killing or discouraging everything in it's path. I have used aDR mower where possible and removed it from trees and blueberry bushes but need a (hopefully) non toxic control. JD


On Jul 22, 2010, DebbyAnn from South Sioux City, NE wrote:

Just to let you know, this "evil" plant grows very well in eastern Nebraska, too. Just seeing those thorns makes me hurt! I've got it growing in my lilac bushes. Thanks, little birds. Why do I have such good luck growing things like greenbriar and Creeping Charlie? The new growth kind of reminded me of wild violets, with a bit of a bite! Wish me luck in getting rid of this menace.


On May 11, 2010, stuffysus from Summerfield, FL wrote:

This vine pops all over my central florida garden.I don't know where it comes from. The "potato" like root must be dug out and it is deep. I have had moderate luck using "crossbow" i found at Traactor Supply. it takes several applications and is expensive. it kills everything , so use with caution.


On May 8, 2010, quejo from Clifton, VA wrote:

I have beautiful woods behind my townhome that also act to block the view of other homes and an Electrical Turbine station nearby. Unfortunately several of the large trees are dying (I don't think it's the Greenbriar), and the natural replacement saplings are being killed by the Greenbriar. In only 2 growing seasons I've seen it pull young trees (about 20-30 feet tall and trunk diameter of maybe 1-2 inches) flat to the ground and kill them. This weekend I discovered a mature natural rose bush, that bloomed beautifully each year, completely dead from the greenbriar. Everything I've read indicate that it is difficult to kill off, besides the vine is sprouting from the ground every 2 ft or so. There are way too many to cut, dig up, or individually treat. I've read this plant is a frien... read more


On Mar 4, 2009, kimma from Decatur, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

I've been fighting this thorny, invasive vine in our yard for years with round-up. I finally started digging up the roots, which are tuberous, and they are humongous - bigger than potatoes, in endless families in my yard, often tangled with the roots of desirable plants. I'm sure I've already dug up 10 pounds of root. The roots are flesh colored inside, and some of them have red wounds on the edges, maybe from previous round up applications, that contribute to the animal-not-plant feel of these roots. This thing feels like pure evil, it's freaking me out. The vines are super thorny and painful even when they're the diameter of a sewing needle, and the roots have hard spindly curved growths that look very much like claws digging into the earth.


On Jan 4, 2009, ncdirtdigger from Waxhaw, NC wrote:

I hate this stuff. Very difficult to remove and/or kill. I have had some success using a 10% solution of brush killer applied to the waxy leaves but it takes several seasons to kill. I fight this stuff, poison ivy and asian honeysuckle in my woods. Be sure to wear heavy clothing, thick gloves and eye protection when dealing with it.


On Sep 24, 2008, kjay from Helotes, TX wrote:

We have an unused portion of our garden in south Texas that we allowed to remain native. I recently decided to clean it up a bit, but found that Greenbrier had taken up residency. What alarmed me initially, was that some visiting friends heard a dog whining from the area, and found a small pet dog that had gotten totally stuck in the briars. Would have died there if they had not heard it. It grows like a thorny curtain, and is extremely difficult to work with, especially if you're trying to get rid of it. The best way I've found to eradicate it is to cut each stalk a few inches from the ground with a clipper, and immediately treat the cut with Green Light "Cut Vine & Stump Killer." It is tedious, but it seems to work in the long run.
4/19/2009 Update: I've now had the chance ... read more


On Jan 18, 2008, podster from Deep East Texas, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I am ambivilant about this plant. The thorns are vicious and the plant sends up volunteers readily. I have had thorn puncture wounds become infected easily. I consider it an invasive and keep it cut back in yard and garden.

The upside is the new growth is appreciated by deer. I have submitted a photo of a large root system for the PlantFiles. The thorny vines can present a deterent to trespassers. The common name for this vine is the "wait a minute" vine. When one gets tangled up in it, you holler "wait a minute" !

Local lore has it that these brier clusters of roots can grow quite large. I have submitted a photo of a large root system for the plant files. In early days, the locals would dig up these roots, cure them and hollow out a bowl for a bri... read more


On Oct 18, 2007, lrayhon from Lewes, DE wrote:

I have a small wooded area next to my lawn in Lewes Delaware. The greenbrier mixed with poisoned ivy and wild grape have taken over the area, making it unwalkable. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to clean it up? Other than a bulldozer!



On Aug 6, 2007, frogarea from Bridgeport, CT (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant is very invasive in my area. It grows on and eventually chokes out everything around it. I would like to know how to eradicate it completely. I tried Weed-B-Gone in a spray bottle and just sprayed the stem so the liquid ran down the stem into the base hoping to get the root. No such luck. Now I patrol my gardens every few days and cut back to the ground any stems I see. If someone has a surefire way of getting rid of it, please post.


On Jul 14, 2007, Sherlock_Holmes from Rife, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Greenbrier is considered an edible wild plant, but for obvious reasons, I have not yet tried to test their edibility. I plan to in the future, though.

"Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America" by Fernald & Kinsey states...

"Uses: Breadstuff, soup, cooling drink, jelly as asparagus, salad.

"...The widely distributed Cat-briers, S. rotundifolia and S. glauca, have long, whitish, cord-like rootstocks becoming several feet in length and on open sandy pond-shores they are readily secured. Soon after exposure to the air they become by oxidation a reddish color, like the flour described by Bartram. It is not absolutely necessary to powder the roots in order to make jelly from them. In our own experiments we simply cut the rootstocks into fine ... read more


On May 5, 2007, NCmagnolia from Swansboro, NC (Zone 8b) wrote:

I live on the North Carolina coast and this plant grows everywhere there. It spreads both by seed and by underground runners and doesn't care what kind of soil or water it has. It is considered almost as bad as kudzu. Anyone who grows a garden here will have to cope with this noxious and very invasive weed.


On Nov 7, 2006, KashtanGeorge from Sochi,
Russia wrote:

There are two kind of such vines in my area in Sochi. The one that especially tormenting while my walks in the Relict Kolhidian forest has red colored berries, though. These vines are tipical, along with ivy, and they are evergreen here.
But they give the great deal of pain while trying to get rid of them from the land near my house.


On May 22, 2006, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I'll give this plant a "Neutral" because it is a native plant and surely has its place within the ecosystem for providing food, shelter, or other positive benefits for the creatures, other than humans.

I once almost put an eye out by pulling a long section of this vine from the top of a tree while standing on the ground. The tree limb tip broke off with the vine and came straight down, like a falling arrow, and pierced my forehead just above my right eye. So here is a note you might not otherwise consider -- wear eye protection goggles when pulling it out of tree tops.

Perhaps one positive note is that the tips of the young, green shoots are edible and have a flavor somewhat like asparagus. I snap off the tips in the Springtime and chew them while working i... read more


On May 21, 2006, Farmerdill from Augusta, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

The greenbriar grows like kudzu and is a lot more difficult to control. I t forms huge underground root masses that will sustain sprouts for years. A mature plant can send vines 30 to 40 feet up into a tree in a single year. It makes good wild life habitat in waste places, but it is a pain elsewhere.


On May 8, 2006, sterhill from Atlanta, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

I hate this plant - it is hard to eradicate, has sharp stickers and long and heavy underground runners. I cannot imagine giving this plant any space. I pull and cut it anywhere I find it.

Good to now know the name of it.


On May 7, 2006, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

In a woodland setting, where native plants were used, this vine will be right at home. Everything has it's place, and this would not be an appropriate plant for a cultivated garden.

It scrambles for many feet up into trees and along the ground. The briers are hard to see and could be uncomfortable if one was caught up in them. However, it doesn't seem harmful or invasive and adds to the richness of a wild, understory planting. (I even keep a bit of Poison Ivy around too because I like the Fall color)

With careful pruning, it will make a loose shrub, but it's nature is to climb.