Plant Listings

Smilax havanensis

Common name: Chaney Briar

Habit: Smilax havanensis grows as a semi-woody vine that climbs over other vegetation.  The stems may have short prickles along them. The leaves are arranged alternately and are up to 15 centimeters long with a pointed leaf tip.  The leaves are ovate shaped and the margins may or may not have spines. At the base of the petiole are stipular tendrils.

The monecious flowers are arranged in umbels. The calyx has three unfused sepals and the corolla has three unfused petals that are greenish white. In male flowers there are six fertile stamens.  The ovary is superior producing a berry as a fruit.  The berry is bluish black at maturity and contains two or three seeds.

Habitat: Smilax havanensis grows in Dry Broadleaf Evergreen Formations (Coppice), Pine Woodlands and human disturbed environments.                   

Distribution in Bahamas/Globally: Smilax havanensis occurs throughout all the islands of the Bahamian Archipelago as well as southern Florida and the Caribbean region.

Medicinal/Cultural/Economic usage: Smilax havanensis has been used in the Bahamas in strengthening teas.  The berries have been fermented to make alcohol.

In south Florida the roots of Smilax havanensis and related species were collected and used by native Americans and settlers as a food source.  The roots were mixed with corn flour and grease and then fried.  The young tips were collected and eaten like asparagus.

A related species S. guianensis from Dominica was used to treat gonorrhea by taking the roots and mixing the material with water and the viney stems were used for basket making.

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