Smilax aspera

Sarsaparilla (Smilax aspera) is a pricking liana that can turn the holm oak forest into impenetrable. Its heart-shaped leaves with parallel nerves and few visible prickles in the outline are really characteristic. Often these leaves display white spots. The climbing stem has many more thorns which are painful if you get tangled up. Sarsaparilla is a dioic species. The bunchs of flowers appears in autumn. They’ve 6 white tepals and either 6 stamens if male individual or one pistil if female. These flowers spread a sweet, intens odour of honey that attracts the bees (Apis mellifica). The fruit made by female individuals is a red berry that is seen in November and December.

The sarsaparilla is distributed in the mediterranean area. In the district of Bages, it is quite common in the south. However, it becomes rare when moving to the north, most likely limited by cold, until it completely disappears. The sarsaparilla is found into the evergreen oakwoods, but also in machias and bush communities.

[photos Jordi Badia (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th), Marta Queralt López Salvans (5th) and Florenci Vallès (6th)]