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smilax, common name for a florists' plant of two separate genera (Asparagus and Smilax), both of the family Liliaceae (lily family, although some botanists recognize smilax as a separate family, the Similacaceae). The greenbriers, prickly vines often weedy in North America, belong to the same genus (Smilax) as the plants yielding sarsaparilla. Both genera are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a genus of plants of the family Liliaceae. (The genus is placed by some botanists in a separate family, the Smilax-aeae.) The plants are shrubs or, less frequently, herbs with twining or creeping stems and reticulately veined leaves with tendrils at their bases. The small, unisexual flowers are in umbellate axillary inflorescences. The fruits are one- to three-seeded berries.

There are more than 300 species, distributed in the Mediterranean region (including the Caucasus) and in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions of Asia and North America. The USSR has two species: S. oldhamii, which grows in the Pri-mor’e, and S. excelsa, which grows in the Caucasus and is cultivated in the Crimea as an ornamental. The roots of some species, such as S. officinalis and S. china, contain saponins and are used in medicine.


Derev’ia i kustarniki SSSR, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.