Smilax Jan. 29

 

102_5872
Bristly greenbriar  Smilax tamnoides

 

reacts, attacks, grasps, clasps…

I love you Smilax – your name slides off the tongue, your needle thorns pierce flesh, your lovely veined leaves turn yellow in fall, your rounded clusters of dark blue berries hang always out of reach.

102_5800
last leaves of December

 

The only thing I don’t love is wading through thickets of your tangled vines when I’ve been foolish enough to wander off trails.

102_5861
Roundleaf greenbriar   Smilax rotundifolia

 

But such thickets are becoming fewer in our forest and new ones will have a harder time getting started. The wicked thorns are a clue – anything needing such armor must be delicious, and smilax is. To deer of course. The tender young shoots resemble asparagus (they’re both in the lily family) and are easy to nip off when not hiding behind the thorns.

 

100_4300
tasty young smilax

Their only hope is to get up into a tree as quickly as possible. And smilax has a remarkable way of doing this – with tendrils, in a behavior called “circumnutation”. As Charles Darwin and his son Francis first described, the tendrils of climbing plants make exploratory movements in the air. Think of swinging a rope over your head in circles till it hits a branch and grabs on.

Once a support is touched, the cellular growth in the tendril tip changes. The part that’s in contact stops growing, but on the other side it speeds up – creating a spiral growth pattern. Plant hormones, in part, direct the formation of tendrils.

 

102_5953
evidence of wandering – smilax tendrils

Although to write this post I waded through a bewildering amount of research on the topic of tendrils, their movements are still considered somewhat mysterious.

For me it just adds to the charm.

     -Smilax the vine has fingers that twine

102_5955

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Smilax Jan. 29

  1. Susan Sheckler

    I’m going to start a file on my email for your tidbits of information. I need to reread them. Thank you, again. Susan Sheckler

    Like

  2. Roger Ohlman

    Thanks – you’ve given me a new appreciation for smilax. I have it growing on my fence next to my AC Unit and have to cut it back each year. It is a fast grower and very resilient.

    Like

  3. Rod

    Smilax grows in dense thickets along the south slope of Pine Mountain in Eastern Kentucky. I’ve caught myself in its clutches more than a few times looking for wildflowers. When that happens, I try to keep in mind that it provides necessary cover for the ruffed grouse and many other ground nesting bird species.

    Like

    1. oneforestfragment

      You are right, it can be very dense in some locations. Great observation about shelter for nesting birds, that is an important service it provides in the forest. I suspect a dense thicket can also protect herbaceous plants and young trees from browsing. Rosemary

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s