ORRIN MORRIS: Smooth greenbrier sheds its blooms when fertilized

SMOOTH GREENBRIER Smilax lanceolata

SMOOTH GREENBRIER Smilax lanceolata

Many years ago I was asked to visit a young woman in the county jail. I don’t know for what crime she committed and I did not ask. We talked about her family and I tried to assure her that a special relative I knew was lovingly watching after her small child.

Further, I pledged to her that our church would be praying that she would triumph over the troubles that resulted in her incarceration.

Over the years, since those visits to the jail, I’ve prayerfully watched her mature. Years later, I met her in a shop and she enthusiastically told me she had completed her lengthy probation without any incident. Thus her court record had been purged and she was free.

As we rejoiced in the strength that the Lord had provided, she related how she looked at life. Every moment was precious and nothing was too small or too simple to ignore. In addition to her family and friends, each sunrise, sunset, rainbow, and tiny wildflower had become important.

Psalm 146: 8-9 reminds me of this lady’s experience. It reads, “The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous: the Lord preserveth the strangers: he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.”(KJV).


Smilax lanceolata

I suppose all of us have been guilty of taking things for granted that what we see is the same old thing. For many years, I had walked past the brambles where I found this vine. I thought it was either privet or greenbrier and ignored it.

The intertwining of the vine among the muscadines was like the common greenbrier (Smilax glauca) and the small lance-shaped green leaves and purple fruit were similar to the privet. Both plants are not on my list of favorites. However, one summer there was an abundance of rain that caused such prolific blooms of this new greenbrier that I finally noticed it.

The more common greenbrier vine is covered with very painful thorns, but this species is practically free of thorns. The only ones I have noticed were toward the base of the vine where major branching occurred.

The leaves of the smooth greenbrier are only 2 inches long, while those of the common variety are heart-shaped and 4 inches long. This species, new to me, has pinate leaves twice-compound as illustrated.

Both species have similar tough woody vines with tendrils that grab onto branches and bark as they grow 30 or 40 feet up trees. Both species have tenacious tuberous root systems.

The old blooms lying on my driveway were the first thing that grabbed my attention. The blooms measure about 1/2-inch but the pedicels that hold the blooms come from a single node on a larger pedicel that sprouted from the leaf union.

The bloom was white and the waxy petals curled back until they touched the calyx, as pictured in the inset. When the flower is fertilized, the petals do not discolor or shrink, but drop to the ground or driveway intact.

The blooming season of this smooth greenbrier is July and August but the fruit does not turn purple until late fall.

One last word about my liberated friend. She laughed as she told me that her mother said she was seeing things like an “old woman.” Her mother was saying that most of us wait until we are old to start seeing the many, many little things in our daily life that are placed there by God to bless and enrich our existence.

Keep looking, dear lady, there is so much to see and cherish. Life may be full of briar patches but beauty can even be found there.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.