Smilax ecirrhata (Upright Carrion Flower)

Plant Info
Also known as: Erect 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 30 inches
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

[close-up of male flowers] One to 3 round to hemispheric flower clusters ¾ to 1½ inches across, each on a long stalk and containing up to 25 flowers (usually less), 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). Male flowers have 6 creamy white to pale yellow-tipped stamens.

[photo of female flower cluster] Female flowers have 6 sterile stamens (staminodes) surrounding a green, round ovary with a 3-parted style at the tip. Both male and female clusters are usually alternately arranged below the leaves with a sheathing, bladeless bract at the base of the stalk; occasionally the uppermost cluster is in the axil of a lower leaf.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate on the upper half or so of the stem, sometimes whorled at the stem tip, a plant having fewer than 20 leaves total and typically less than 10. Leaves are 3 to 5 inches long, 2 to 4 inches wide, oval to broadly egg-shaped, rounded to blunt to pointed at the tip, heart-shaped at the base, on a stalk that is usually shorter than the blade. The upper surface is hairless, the lower sparsely hairy. Edges are toothless though may be somewhat crinkly or wavy. Rarely the upper leaves may have 1 or 2 short tendrils at the base of the stalk, but tendrils are usually absent. Stems are erect, unbranched, and hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

Fruit is a round berry 1/3 inch or so in diameter that ripens from green to purplish-black.


Upright Carrion Flower is the shortest of the 4 Minnesota Smilax species, usually about 2 feet tall. It is further distinguished from the others by having only 1 to 3 flower clusters usually all arranged below the leaves, fewer than 25 flowers per cluster, unbranched stems with fewer than 20 leaves, leaf stalks shorter than the associated blades, and lacking any tendrils. The leaf shape is more similar to Blue Ridge Carrion Flower (Smilax lasioneura) than to Illinois Carrion Flower (Smilax illinoensis) and these three can be quite difficult to distinguish when young but when more mature and flower clusters start emerging the differences are more apparent: both S. lasioneura and S. illinoensis usually have more than 20 leaves, more than 3 flower clusters, and more than 25 flowers per cluster (though this last trait is quite variable); S. lasioneura is also a climbing vine to 8 feet long with branched stems and numerous tendrils; S. illinoensis has up to 10 flower clusters, usually has at least a few tendrils on the upper stem, and leaf stalks are often longer than the associated blades. The fourth species, Bristly Greenbrier (S. tamnoides or S. hispida) is the only Smilax species in Minnesota with a prickly stem.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated

More photos

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


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

Posted by: Brett W. - Chisago County
on: 2021-09-26 15:12:36

Found in fruit yesterday along a trail in Wild River SP.

Posted by: Frank@Mound - Hennepin County
on: 2022-05-18 22:20:00

It decided to show up in our flower garden, within a cluster of Iris germanica. The soil is fairly dry as it is under several trees including Ironwood, White Oak, and Sugar Maple.

Posted by: Peter. O - Afton, MN
on: 2022-05-28 13:46:13

Found one of these along the side of a trail today.

Posted by: Laurie C. - Taylors Falls Interstate SP
on: 2022-09-21 08:29:39

Interstate SP - In fruit along the access path to the Railroad and Sandbluff trails (near the tunnel under highway 95).

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the spammers out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.