Smilax rotundifolia (catbrier, bulbrier, hellfetter, blasphemy vine, horsebrier)

description: perennial vine

place of origin: eastern North America

urban habitat: commonly found along roadsides, at edges of clearings, and in understory of woodlands; thrives in moist sunny conditions but can tolerate dry and shady locations, as well as road salt and compacted soil.

ecological function: can provide erosion control on river and stream banks; food and habitat for wildlife.

history: Smilax rotundifolia was used by the Cherokee for a variety of medicinal uses including for treatment of rheumatism, headaches, localized pain, boils, stomach aches, muscle cramps and as an aid to expel placenta after childbirth. There is speculation that the roots contain a steroid precursor of testosterone. Its cooked roots were consumed and contain a gelling agent used as a thickening agent. A drink resembling root beer can be made from its roots. The young shoots can be eaten cooked or raw.