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Native/Sweet Sarsaparilla

BSA Plant Guide

Native/Sweet Sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla)

Family: Smilacaceae

Size: Creeping vine can run to a great extent along the ground or up a tree.

Description: Smooth stemmed vine/ climber/twiner (7 species in Aust, 3 endemic).

Habitat: Widespread coast and tablelands, moist forests and rainforests.

Foliage: Alternate leaves with three prominent longitudinal veins, dark green above and silvery below, ovate to lanceolate. Older leaves are leathery and younger leaves are smooth and delicate and often have a pinky red colour. Stalk has smooth short tendrils, no prickles

Flowers: Small greenish white unisexual flowers in axillary umbels. Flowers in Summer.

Fruit/seeds: Black globular glossy edible berries containing single seeds, supposedly high in vitamin C.

Distribution: QLD, NSW, VIC

Uses: Leaves can be chewed and have a liquorice taste (young red leaves are sweeter) or used to brew a very sweet but slightly bitter herbal tea (infusion) that tastes like a mix of liquorice and “Stevia”. Decoction from the leaves used to treat colds, flu, coughs, bronchitis, sore eyes etc, however the boiling process used to create the decoction destroys much of the vitamin C. Stems can be used used as a light bush string. Traditionally Aboriginal people used this plant for respiratory disorders, aches and pains blood purification and skin problems.

Distribution of Smilax glyciphylla in Australia