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Family: Smilacaceae Vent.

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Liliales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • GREENBRIAR FAMILY - English, United States of America
  • CATBRIAR FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Woody (except 1 species), usually prickly (painfully so) vines with tendrils and alternate, often ± leathery leaves, with the main veins longitudinal and the secondary veins in a net-like arrangement; flowers (small, inconspicuous) and fruits (small berries) in axillary umbels.


Notes: A small (375 species in 4 genera—rarely as many as 12 genera are recognized) family nearly worldwide in distribution but particularly in the tropics and subtropics, with a few in temperate areas (Holmes 2002c). Molecular evidence (e.g., Chase et al. 1995a) supports the monophyly of the family. The Smilacaceae has often been submerged into the Liliaceae or even combined with the Dioscoreaceae (Tyrl et al. 1994). Based on molecular evidence (Chase et al. 1993, 1995a; Rudall et al. 2000b; Vinnersten & Bremer 2001), the family falls “clearly within the Liliales” (Judd 1998). It is apparently most closely related to Liliaceae (Vinnersten & Bremer 2001), differing “mainly in leaf characteristics and in being dioecious” (Holmes 2002c). According to Holmes (2002c), the leaf venation is “atypical of monocotyledons in being reticulate [= net-like] between major veins.” (subclass Liliidae—Cronquist; order Liliales—APG II)