Smilax ecirrhata (Upright Carrion Flower)
|Also known as:||Erect Carrion Flower|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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.
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:
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 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.
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- Upright Carrion Flower plant
- Upright Carrion Flower plant
- Upright Carrion Flower plants
- Upright Carrion Flower with Large-flowered Trillium
- young plant
- uppermost leaves sometimes appear whorled
- close-up of female flowers
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?