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Sarsaparilla (Smilax aristolochiifolia)


Sarsaparilla is a perennial woody climber with tendrils, thin branches and extended ovate leaves that grows about 4 to 5 meters vertically. Its paper-like leaves are pinnate veined, leathery and alternatively arranged.The leaves' width ranges from 10 to 30 cm and the petioles' length is about 5 cm. It is known for its small red berries with 2 or 3 seeds and small green flowers.The flowers are radially symmetrical, dioecious and have umbel inflorescence of 12 flowers. The berries are produced in the fall or in the late summer and stays intact through the winter for animals and birds to eat. Thus the pollination occurs as the unharmed seeds are found in the feces. The surface of the stem is smooth; it also is bent and have thorns at the joints. The hairy roots of sarsaparilla are fibrous and may have few rootlets growing out.They have stiff surface and are deep-rooted, which grows from 2 to 2.5 meters. The color of the roots ranges from brownish gray to black. Sarsaparilla is a persistent plant; even when most roots are cut off from the stem, roots will grow few years later but will be slender and less starchy

Taxonomic tree

  • Domain: Eukarya

    • Kingdom: Plantae

      • Phylum: Magnoliophyta

        • Class: Liliopsida

          • Order: Liliales

            • Family: Smilacaceae

              • Genus: Smilax