Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Catbriar, Bamboo Vine
Smilax laurifolia

Family: Smilacaceae
Genus: Smilax (SMIL-aks) (Info)
Species: laurifolia (law-ree-FOH-lee-uh) (Info)

2 members have or want this plant for trade.

Vines and Climbers

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

Unknown - Tell us

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Grown for foliage

Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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to view:

By Floridian
Thumbnail #1 of Smilax laurifolia by Floridian

By Floridian
Thumbnail #2 of Smilax laurifolia by Floridian


3 positives
1 neutral
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive longjonsilverz On Apr 2, 2014, longjonsilverz from Centreville, MD wrote:

There might be some confusion about this plant because the name "Catbriar" is used on this website as a common name, however catbriar more commonly refers to smilax glauca, a related vine which is far more abundant and has a broader range in the Eastern US. Smilax laurifolia is primarily found in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic states, and is far less common than smilax glauca. It is also evergreen in all of its natural range, but smilax glauca is mostly deciduous or semi-evergreen depending on the location. S. laurifolia also has longer, more narrow leaves, and S. glauca has shorter, rounder leaves.

Smilax Laurifolia is also a little more cold hardy than zone 8 since it grows naturally in zone 7, as far north as southern New Jersey.

Negative brewsterberni On Aug 23, 2007, brewsterberni from Brewster, MA wrote:

The entirety of Cape Cod, Masschusetts is infested with this plant--it's almost as bad as the poison ivy which also infests the area. It pulls even large trees to the ground. If they are strong enough to survive, they end up with twisted trunks. The thorns are beyond sharp and the scratches itch like crazy. I spent last summer cutting, pulling and digging out this plant. I have slowed it down, still haven't stopped it. Now, I just mow down any new shoots or cut them off manually if they are in a place where the mower cannot go. I suspect it also robs the soil of nutrients as I've had a hard time getting things to grow in places where the catbriar once was.

I read a Boston Globe article earlier this year which blamed the overgrowth of these types of vines on an abnormally thin layer of natural plant debris that covers most forest floors. This is caused by an overabundance of earthworms which come in the containers we buy at any garden store--who would ever think that earthworms could be a problem? Sure enough, the layer of plant debris in the woods around my house is almost non-existant and the area where the catbriar is out of control are the areas where a previous resident planted all manner of flowers and then threw the plant containers in the woods. I am experimenting by trying to replenish the forest floor, since there is no shortage of leaves that fall in my yard and the woods are part of the property. I have also transplanted some violets next to the catbriar; hoping the violets are strong enough to choke out the briars, like they choke out virtually every other plant. It will be at least another year until I know if this has any affect at all.


Negative breezer7 On Apr 3, 2007, breezer7 from Gulf Breeze, FL wrote:

This plant is horrible and the bane of my yard. It had a stranglehold on everything, trees, bushes, etc, when we moved here. It grows invasively and chokes out everything in its path. It is impossible to get rid of. It will keep coming back from now until doomsday. To add injury to insult, the thorns make it very painful to deal with. STAY AWAY!

(We live in northwest Florida where it's called Smilax)

Negative sdallen131 On Jul 18, 2006, sdallen131 from Melrose, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

The only good thing I can think of for this plant is that with its thorns and tangles of stems, it provides some protection for birds and their families.

The bad traits of the plant are that the roots form potato-like bulbs along the woody underground runners and strangle other plants. The runners, as well as the above ground vines, have thorns and are almost impossible to get rid of once they have had a head start.

Trying to remove these roots and bulbs when they are tangled around another plant's base can be traumatic to the "good" plant. And, when it gets to the top of a tree or shrub there is such a tangle of leaves and vines that the plant it is on can get no sunlight.

This doesn't even address the damage it can do to your hands and arms (or any other part of your body!) in the eradication process.

I would hope that no one would plant this weed on purpose.

Positive nativeplants On Aug 1, 2005, nativeplants from Suwanee, GA wrote:

I'm wondering if Cottonmouthfan may be reporting on another species of Smilax, as there are many which I work to control also.

Smilax laurifolia is different. It is a clumper, not a runner. It has fewer thorns than its other Smilax cousins which seem to be less abundant on the older stems. The laurel-shaped leaves are attractive and reliably evergreen. I'm growing it in northern Georgia (zone 7a/b) where it is perfectly hardy. However, my plant was growing wild locally and may be a more hardy northern ecotype.

It's one of the few evergreen vines that can tolerate wet and poorly draining soil.

Best to grow it on an arbor or large fence where it has plenty of room. It seems to do best in 1/2 to 3/4 sun.

Negative cottonmouthfan On Jul 13, 2005, cottonmouthfan from Buena Vista, GA wrote:

Do NOT NOT NOT plant this. It is invasive, impossible to get rid of, and has very painful thorns. It will get extremely big, very thick and heavy and will break down smaller shrubs and trees. It spreads through roots and must be completely dug out. Leaving one tiny piece of root material causes it to come back.

Positive NativePlantFan9 On Mar 6, 2005, NativePlantFan9 from Boca Raton, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

Catbriar, Bamboo Vine or Laurel Greenbriar (Smilax laurifolia) is native to the coastal states of the southeastern United States from New Jersey south along the coastal plain throughout Florida, west along the coastal plain into Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Tenessee and the rest of the lower coastal states. It is found in dry sandy sites, fencerows, pine barrens, pine flatwoods, barrier islands, fields and field edges, thickets and dunes as well as moist sites along the edges of swamps. It provides food and shelter for wildlife.

The leaves are rounded and thin, and slightly pointed.

This species is drought-tolerant, but can tolerate moist or wetter conditions.

Neutral Floridian On Apr 8, 2002, Floridian from Lutz, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Catbriar is native in the southeastern United States from the Carolinas south through Florida. This vine is very useful for covering chain link fencing but the vines are covered with spines. It serves as a nesting site and food source for several bird species, most notably Mockingbirds and Catbirds. The young shoots are edible.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Bartow, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Gulf Breeze, Florida
Lutz, Florida
Buena Vista, Georgia
Centreville, Maryland
Brewster, Massachusetts
Conway, South Carolina

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