Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Biltmore's Carrion-flower - Smilax biltmoreana   (Small) J.B. Norton ex Pennell
Members of Smilax with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Smilacaceae
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Author(Small) J.B. Norton ex Pennell
DistributionFound only in the southern half of the Piedmont and Mountains, north to Buncombe, Catawba, and Randolph counties.

This is a Southern species with a very limited distribution, mainly in NC, SC, and GA. It ranges north to central NC and KY and south to northern FL and AL. The range is somewhat uncertain due to confusion with S. hugeri, with which it was formerly allied as a variety.
AbundanceUncommon to locally fairly common in the southwestern Piedmont; uncommon in the southern Mountains. Rare in the southeastern Piedmont east of Catawba and Gaston counties. This was formerly a Significantly Rare species in NC, but has since been demoted to Watch List and now (2018) off of the Watch List.
HabitatThis is a species of somewhat “ordinary” upland hardwood forests, often in acidic soils. It favors ridges and somewhat rocky soil, but it can be found in more mesic forests. Why it was so poorly known and considered “rare” until recently is not obvious from its unremarkable habitats.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is an erect deciduous herb, growing only to 1-2 feet tall; few members of the genus Smilax are herbs. It has 5-7 leaves, all clustered near the top of the stem. The leaves are widely ovate, with cordate bases and widely rounded to the rather blunt tip. Leaves are about 4 inches long, green above but glaucescent (yet glabrous) below. The stems of the flower clusters arise from leaf axils. The very similar S. hugeri has clearly pubescent leaves below, and the leaves are mostly truncate at the base, giving the leaf a more elliptical and symmetrical shape than the clearly heart-shaped base of S. biltmoreana. Also, S. hugeri has more scalloped leaf margins than the rather entire margins of S. biltmoreana. You may need to check other references to identify various herbaceous species of Smilax. Populations may be small in number of individuals, and may not flower in a given year.
Taxonomic CommentsThis was one of three taxa that formerly (as in RAB 1968) were included within S. ecirrhata – as S. ecirrhata var. biltmoreana. Since then, S. hugeri – also found in NC -- has been split off; the former nominate variety remains as S. ecirrhata, but this species is found only west of NC.

Other Common Name(s)Biltmore Carrionflower
State RankS3
Global RankG4
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