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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26

227. Smilacaceae Ventenat

Catbrier Family

Walter C. Holmes

Shrubs, herbs, or vines, perennial, rhizomatous. Stems erect or climbing, usually prickly, sometimes unarmed. Leaves opposite or alternate, prominently 3-veined, reticulate between veins, usually bearing tendrils, usually leathery. Inflorescences umbellate [or racemose or spicate]. Flowers unisexual, staminate and pistillate on different plants; tepals 6, distinct, rarely united into perianth tube; stamens 2–3-whorled, anthers 1-locular; pistillate flowers bearing staminodes, pistil 3-carpellate; ovary 2-locular, 1–2 ovules per locule. Fruits baccate. Seeds 1–3.

Genera 4(–12), species ca. 375 (1 genus, 20 species in the flora): worldwide, mainly tropical to subtropical, a few temperate.

The leaves of Smilacaceae are atypical of monocotyledons in being reticulate between major veins. The family is closely related to and sometimes included in Liliaceae. It differs mainly in leaf characteristics and in being dioecious.


Arber, A. 1920. Tendrils of Smilax. Bot. Gaz. 69: 438–442. Coker, W. C. 1944. The woody smilaxes of the United States. J. Elisha Mitchell Sci. Soc. 60: 27–69, plates 9–39. Duncan, W. H. 1975. Woody Vines of the Southeastern United States. Athens, Ga. Fernald, M. L. 1944. Overlooked species, transfers, and novelties in the flora of eastern North America. Rhodora 46: 1–28, 32–60. Judd, W. S. 1998. The Smilacaceae in the southeastern United States. Harvard Pap. Bot. 3: 147–169. Mangaly, J. K. 1968. A cytotaxonomic study of the herbaceous species of Smilax: Section Coprosmanthus. Rhodora 70: 55–82, 247–273. Morong, T. 1894. The Smilaceae [sic] of North and Central America. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 21: 419–448. Pennell, F. W. 1916b. Notes on plants of the southern United States—II. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 43: 409–421.

Lower Taxon


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