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Austral Sarsaparilla

Smilax australis
Austral Sarsaparilla
Very Common

This is a tough, vigorous climber with alternate, leathery leaves and all but the youngest stems are covered with numerous, small prickles.

The leaves are broad, almost oblong, with a small, hard point, which curves downward in the centre of the nearly straight end. The plant can be distinguished by the leaf veins - as well as the midvein, there are 2 other long veins on either side of it, both reaching the end of the leaf; the small veins in between are clearly visible.

Halfway along the leaf stalk, there is a pair of tendrils which, on older leaves, may be reduced to short stubs.

The greenish-white flowers hang in clusters in the forks of the leaves (male and female flowers are on separate plants). The ripe fruit is a round, black berry (1-1.5 cm across), containing 1-3 hard, shiny seeds.

Smilax can be grown from fresh seed, which germinates in 1-4 months. It is hardy and can be found in and near most rainforest patches around Robertson and along the roadsides.

Distribution: Eastern Vic, NSW, Qld, NT, WA and Lord Howe I.