Smilax lasioneura (Blue Ridge Carrion Flower)

Plant Info
Also known as: Common Carrion Flower
Family:Smilacaceae (Catbrier)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; average to moist soil; deciduous woods, thickets, floodplains
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:6 to 8 foot vine
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: round

[photo of female flowers] Few to numerous round to hemispheric flower clusters 1 to 2 inches across, each on a long stalk and containing up to 100+ flowers (usually 25 or more), with male and female flowers on separate plants (dioecious). Flowers are about ¼ inch across with 6 green to yellow-green tepals (petals and similar sepals). Female flowers have 6 sterile stamens (staminodes) surrounding a green, round ovary with a 3-parted style at the tip.

[photo of male flower cluster] Male flowers have 6 creamy white to pale yellow-tipped stamens. Both male and female clusters arise singly from the leaf axils all along the stem, starting with the lowest leaf. A flower stalk is usually longer than the associated leaf stalk, sometimes significantly so.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaf] Leaves are alternate, 1½ to 3+ inches long, 1 to 2½ inches wide, egg-shaped to nearly round, rounded to blunt to pointed at the tip, heart-shaped to rounded to straight across at the base, on a stalk that is usually shorter than the blade. The upper surface is hairless, the lower sparsely short-hairy. Edges are toothless though may be somewhat crinkly or wavy. Leaves become smaller as they ascend the stem, though the lowest leaves are somewhat smaller than those mid-stem.

[photo of tendrils] Leaves along most of the stem typically have a pair of long tendrils at the base of the stalk; these tendrils twine around supporting vegetation and enable the plant to climb. Stems are branched, hairless, erect to ascending, or more sprawling when supporting vegetation is not available.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a round berry 1/3 inch or so in diameter that ripens from green to purplish-black, covered with a waxy coating.


Blue Ridge Carrion Flower is one of the larger Minnesota Smilax species, though young plants are easily confused with both Upright Carrion Flower (Smilax ecirrhata) and Illinois Carrion Flower (S. illinoensis), and all 3 may grow together which makes it more challenging. S. lasioneura is probably the most variable in leaf shape, number of flower clusters and number of flowers in a cluster, but, unlike the other two species, it has a branched stem and many tendrils that twine around itself and other vegetation. Its leaf stalks are mostly shorter than the blade and flower stalks are mostly longer than the leaf stalks, sometimes significantly so. While a robust plant may grow to 8 feet long and have numerous flower clusters, a 3-foot plant will more closely resemble the other two.

By comparison, neither S. ecirrhata nor S. illinoensis has a branching stem and both have few or no tendrils. S. ecirrhata also has only 1 to 3 flower clusters that are usually all below the leaves, fewer than 25 flowers per cluster, and has fewer than 20 leaves per plant, often less than 10. S. illinoensis leaf stalks are mostly as long as or longer than the blade and flower stalks are shorter (i.e. opposite of S. lasioneura). A fourth species, Bristly Greenbrier (S. tamnoides or S. hispida), is the only Smilax species in Minnesota with a prickly stem.

Of note is we spent a number of years agonizing over some of these Smilax species. The DNR and Bell Herbarium both list Smooth Carrion Flower (Smilax herbacea) as present in Minnesota, but this appears to be untrue, though may go back to a time when S. lasioneura was treated as a variety of S. herbacea (var. lasioneura) and old records were not updated when the taxonomy was. Over the years we inspected countless leaves looking for a hairless plant, only to discover every Smilax plant in Minnesota has hairy leaves. Adding to the confusion was the number of flowers in a cluster. In Houston County we came upon a robust plant we were sure was S. herbacea because we counted about 100 flowers in a cluster, which should have eliminated S. lasioneura as a contender since multiple references state it should only have up to 35. Those references are simply wrong. We were never sure of what we had until we conceded that S. herbacea was indeed not present in the state and Michigan Flora's Smilax key was more accurate. It became easier after that, but they can still be a difficult group.

S. lasioneura is sometimes misspelled Smilax lasioneuron.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Chisago, Houston and Ramsey counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Houston, Kittson, Ramsey and Scott counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Gene Reckmann - Zumbro Falls / Hammond area
on: 2018-09-06 13:44:52

Have these out by my mail box, first time i have every seen them.Did not know what they were until i asked DNR. BLUE RIDGE CAIRRION FYI. Are the berries edible?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-09-06 14:47:00

I hear they are mostly seed, not much flesh, and while edible they aren't really worth eating.

Posted by: Luciearl - Lake Shore
on: 2018-09-10 00:27:28

Discover this growing in my yard this year. Had not seen it before.

Posted by: Elizabeth Tetzner - Found in Dane County Wisconsin
on: 2018-10-19 16:32:22

i found this plant growing on a vine on a fence hedge row . This plant had 7 or 8 round clusters. Each cluster was about 2.5" in circumference. The flesh is dark purple and contains 2-3 seeds per berry. Very interesting to look at.

Posted by: charlie nordby - avon
on: 2019-06-05 23:29:24

saw along Wobegon Trail

Posted by: Pat W - Pillager, mn
on: 2019-10-08 15:41:49

Thanks for taking the effort to identify these plants on my property. For the longest time I could not get a name to the species. So finally I have an id. You do great work!

Posted by: Dana Weierke - Lindstrom
on: 2020-07-10 13:31:05

Found these out behind the barn , seem to be very invasive , want to leave till fall now to see the berries. Does anyone e k ow if they will kill surrounding plants shrubs ?

Posted by: Joanne Griffin - Spring Grove, Houston County
on: 2020-08-30 11:02:43

Found growing along a fence line with wild roses and elderberry bushes.

on: 2020-09-14 10:38:24

Found this in the fruit stage at Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA in Fillmore County, MN. The SNA is a mostly wooded, 40 acre site.

Posted by: Nadine - Kanabec county.
on: 2021-08-30 05:38:46

Plant is almost 20" in length only one bunch of seeds I did not see this plant bloom.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-08-31 12:42:59

Nadine, if there is only one fruiting head then it's possible you have a different species, Smilax ecirrhata, which is short, not vining, and commonly has only one flower cluster.

Posted by: Garrett Williams - Bemidji State Park, Beltrami County.
on: 2022-06-26 15:01:10

Found a few of these, both male and female, along the start of Rocky point trail. Most small though a couple about 1m

Posted by: Kathy Cornell - Sunburg
on: 2022-09-10 13:01:03

Found behind garage, under the oak trees. Is this poisonous the dogs were eating the berries

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-09-10 16:08:16

Kathy, the berries are not toxic to humans but I don't know about dogs or livestock. If your dogs didn't get sick then I'd say not. ;)

Posted by: Lisa Palmer Fleming
on: 2022-10-22 19:31:33

Found a vine with several fruit clusters in floodplain area of Baptism River at Eckbeck campground in the Finland State Forest, Oct 22, 2022.

Posted by: Donna Crider - Aitkin County in the Rice Lake NWR, along the wildlife drive
on: 2023-06-13 22:31:20

First time I've ever seen this plant!

Posted by: Carolyn - Steele County
on: 2023-06-15 16:31:56

growing along the edge of my woods

Posted by: Donna Knauber - 12 miles SE of Moorhead, Clay Co.
on: 2023-06-18 13:24:36

Lots of it along the South Branch of the Buffalo, S of Sabin .

Posted by: Walt Nigon - Southwest of Eyota, Olmsted County
on: 2023-06-21 09:13:52

Have 2 plants growing in the road ditch w native prairie planting

Posted by: Donna Crider - Aitkin County
on: 2023-09-06 12:20:53

Found in Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge along Wildlife Drive. A first for me, never noticed them before.

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