Common Smilax
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Common Smilax
ative Photo: Thingnam Girija
Common name: Common Smilax, Prickly Ivy, Rough Bindweed, Salsaparilla • Hindi: salsa, kalisar, magrabu, kukurdara, kumardar, kukarjari • Kannada: namadaberu, sughanda-palada-gida, parangi chakke • Malayalam: kizhanna, nannari, naru-ninti • Sanskrit: chopachini • Tamil: kizhanna, nannari, naru-ninti • Telugu: pala sugandhi, sugandhipala
Botanical name: Smilax aspera    Family: Smilacaceae (Smilax family)

Common Smilax is a creeping or scrambling and vigorously climbing evergreen and tough shrub. The stems can be up to 15 m, twining and climbing into and over other trees, with spiny zigzag branches. The leathery, glossy, alternately arranged, leaves are more prominent than the flowers. Large leaves can be up to 15 X 9.5 cm but are mostly smaller. They are heart- shaped, very leathery and have a pair of tendrils arising from the base of the leaf-stalk, with prickles on leaf-stalk, margin and principal veins beneath. Leaves have several strong longitudinal veins, with pale green patches on the upper surface of most leaves. The size and shape of the leaves is very variable. Small white flowers are borne in inflorescences in the leaf axils and on branch ends. Every umbel has a few flowers that have a sweet almond smell. The axes can range from 3 to more than 30 cm, and carry 5-30 flowers with minute bracteoles. The flowers are white but the tepals are so narrow that the flowers are hardly noticed. Male flowers measure about 1 cm across, consisting of 6 tepals and 6 stamens. Female flowers are smaller, about 7 mm across. They consist of 6 tepals. The fruit is a spherical rather soft berry, about 1 cm long and 7 mm broad. The mature berries are red, dry to black. Common Smilax is found in the Himalayas, from Pakistan to Bhutan, at altitudes of 1200-2500 m. It is also found in other parts of India. Flowering: September-November.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand.
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