Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Smilax australis R.Br.

Slender Vine
Click/tap on images to enlarge
Leaf and inflorescence. © R.L. Barrett
Male flowers. © Barry Jago
Inflorescences. © R.L. Barrett
Fruit. CC-BY J.L. Dowe
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
Cotyledon and 1st leaf stage, hypogeal germination. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, hypogeal germination. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, hypogeal germination. © CSIRO

Brown, R. (1810) Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae : 293. Type: New South Wales, Port Jackson, R. Brown; (holo: BM?).

Common name

Sarsaparilla; Lawyer Vine; Vine, Lawyer; Sarsaparilla, Austral; Austral Sarsaparilla; Smilax


A slender vine not exceeding a stem diameter of 2 cm. Stems often clothed in short spines.


Twigs and branches often clothed in short spines. Leaf blades about 7-15 x 4.5-9 cm, petioles about 0.7-2 cm long. Stipules attached to the petioles. Stipules about 7 mm long, however, stipules often extend to form much longer tendrils. Leaf blades usually five-veined, sometimes seven-veined.


Male flowers: Pedicels about 9 mm long. Sepals about 5-6 mm long. Petals about 4-5 mm long. Stamens 6. Anthers about 1.5 mm long, filaments sinuous, about 3.5-4 mm long when straightened. Female flowers: Pedicels about 7-8 mm long. Sepals about 3.5-4 mm long. Petals about 3.5-4 mm long. Staminodes fine, hair-like.


Fruits globular, about 7-9 mm diam. on a slender stalk about 8-15 mm long. Seeds 1 or 2 per fruit, each seed tick-shaped, flattened on one side, about 4-5 x 4 mm. Testa very thin. Endosperm very hard. Embryo about 1 x 0.4 mm, located at the blunt end of the seed just inside the testa. Embryo laterally compressed, one end of the embryo thicker than the other.


Usually 2 cataphylls produced just outside the seed coat and 2 more further up the stem before the first true leaf. First true leaf ovate, lanceolate to elliptic, about 2-3 x 1-2 cm, apex acuminate, base obtuse, petioles about 4-8 mm long, base expanded to form wings on each side which partly embrace the stem. Leaf blades +/- 3-veined with a fairly well developed intramarginal vein as well. At the tenth leaf stage: stems clustered, several stems arising from the same rhizome, leaf blade ovate to lanceolate, about 8-10 x 2.5-4.5 cm, petiole about 0.5-0.6 cm long. Leaf blades usually three-veined, perhaps five-veined if the outer less obvious intramarginal veins are counted. Sharp spines about 1-2 mm long usually visible on the stems. The spines are quite strong and sharp and capable of piercing the skin. Seed germination time 67 to 432 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Endemic to Australia, occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards as far as Victoria. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 1300 m. Grows in wet sclerophyll forest, lowland, upland and mountain rain forest.

Natural History & Notes

Food plant for the larval stages of the Miskin's Jewel and Cephenes Blue Butterflies. Common & Waterhouse (1981).

Smilax australis var. latifolia F.Muell., Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae 7: 107(1869). Smilax elliptica R.Br., Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae : 293(1810), Type: Tropical Australia, R. Brown; (holo: BM?). Smilax latifolia var. crassinervia A.DC., Monographiae Phanerogamarum 1 : 182(1878), Type: In Australia orient. (Hugel in h. vind.). Smilax spinescens Miq., Linnaea 18 : 83(1844), Type: Crescit in New-South-Wales Novae Hollandiae (Herb. Watson.). Smilax latifolia R.Br., Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae : 293(1810), Type: Tropical Australia, R. Brown; (holo: BM?).
RFK Code
Copyright © CSIRO 2020, all rights reserved.