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Growth patterns of greenbrier

Grace Harsha


Greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) is a climbing vine with thorns.  It is found throughout the eastern United States.  There are differences in the length of vines, appearance and frequency of thorns, and shape of vines.  

Research questions

Are there differences in the growth patterns of greenbrier plants among locations?  Are there differences in plant diameter, branching vs. climbing patterns, and plant length?  Are there differences in thorn growth?


I measured length, number of nodes, diameter, density of thorns, and number of branches of greenbrier plants in three locations:  Creekside Trail, Floodplain, and Woodland Trail.


Thorn density was highest at the base of the plant, perhaps to prevent herbivory at the base of the plant.  There was no correlation between thorn density and diameter of plants.  There were no differences in the length of vines among the three sites.  Production of thorns didn't seem to be stimulated by environmental conditions.


Greenbrier appears to be able to grow as a bush or climbing vine.  Future studies could investigate differences in tendril nodes and branching nodes.