Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Downy Carrion-flower - Smilax pulverulenta   Michaux
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Smilacaceae
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AuthorMichaux
DistributionProbably throughout the mountains and Piedmont, and sparingly into the western Coastal Plain. As this recently split species is so similar to S. herbacea, the full range and abundance is not well known.

This is a somewhat Northern species ranging from RI, NY, and NE south to NC and AR, and probably to SC as well.
AbundanceFairly common in the mountains and Piedmont, but not as well known as is S. herbacea due to the fact that most biologists would call both of these simply as “S. herbacea (sensu latu)” without discriminating between the two. It seems best to suggest a revised State Rank of S4?, instead of the NC NHP's current S5.
HabitatThis is a species of moist forests, mainly bottomlands but also of moist to at times mesic slopes. It is usually found in high pH soils, apparently more so than is S. herbacea, which also occurs in rich soils.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a climbing herbaceous “vine”, growing to 6-8 feet long, very similar to S. herbacea and S. lasioneura. However, the ovate leaves of this species are bright, shining green below, unlike the somewhat pale green leaf undersides of the other two. In addition, the leaves have a distinct acuminate tip, as opposed to a more gradual and tapered leaf tip. The stalk of the flowers and berries is relatively short, barely as long as the stalk (petiole) of the adjacent leaf. Smilax lasioneura and S. herbacea have a very long pedicel, much longer (5-8 times longer) than the petiole. This species also has black berries that are not glaucous; the other two have blue-black berries with a glaucous bloom. Note that both this species and S. herbacea occupy roughly the same range, and probably much of the same moist soil habitats. Remember to check the undersides of the leaves; and if there are flowers or fruit, check the length of the pedicels of the inflorescence -– short in this species and very long in S. herbacea.
Taxonomic CommentsUntil fairly recently, this taxon was listed as a variety of S. herbacea – S. herbacea var. pulverulenta.

Other Common Name(s)Hairy Carrion-flower
State RankS5 [S4?]
Global RankG4G5
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