12/23/2008

Flowerpot Christmas

Steve Bender, aka The Grumpy Gardener, suggested more information about greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) and reminded me there are some varieties that have less thorns. I have long thought this plant has strong merit as a landscape plant. Growing up, I really hated this plant because it was always ripping my clothes when I was hunting, or scratching my arms and legs as I ran through the edges of the woods looking for plants. But then I discovered how tasty the young growing shoots are, raw in a salad, or steamed with Italian dressing. Or in a quiche. Or fried, on a hamburger.

Greenbrier slowly became one of my all time favorite plants. Yes, it does have thorns. But it is tough, stays green for most of the year, will grow just about anywhere and is beautiful when allowed to grow up into a tree. Unlike roses, which also have tenacious thorns, greenbrier doesn't have to be coddled. I've seen it in northern Missouri in rich bottomland with leaves nearly as big as your face and very few thorns. The tough, leathery, shiny green leaves are quite stunning. It's not a plant you like weeding up your flower bed as it has deep roots and if you don't see it in time when you're weeding, you will let out a loud, "OUCH!" But in the right location, this is an amazing plant. Someone should hybridize or select out the better attributes of this plant as it has commercial value.

It's cousin, another Smilax is Sarsaparilla root (you know it as one of the ingredients in root beer), is a medicinal plant that is said to remove toxins from the bowels, reduce inflammation from the blood, urinary system, skin and liver. That's how root beer started out, as a good-for-everything tonic, then later evolved into being a soft drink. Sarsaparilla was the start of that, the cousin of our sometimes despised native greenbrier.

I almost forgot to post the photos of the flower pot nativity I found in Texas last summer. It was at a clay pot factory and I thought the animals were especially interesting. And the camel! All it needs is some greenbrier growing around the whole scene, but of course the flowerpot donkey would eat it! Wildlife loves greenbrier and so do I.

Happy Holidays, however you choose to celebrate them. We're getting freezing rain at the moment and there's a pot of vegetable soup simmering on the stove.

3 comments:

compost in my shoe said...

Walking around the woods in rural SC, I had my bloody moments with Smilax, but to this day love this plant. Those roots are amazing. See them washed up on the beaches here all the time. The root masses are pure art.

Happy Holidays from Charleston, SC!

Grumpy Gardener said...

If you like the way Smilax looks, but don't like the thorns, try Jackson vine (Smilax smallii), which was named for Stonewall Jackson. It has glossy evergreen leaves, attractive clusters of blue-black berries, and its thorns are only around the base of the vine and not up on the stems. Many homes in Alabama train this vine over bay windows and around the front door. I think you can order it from Woodlanders in South Carolina. Check it out!

Taylor said...

Wow! That nativity is out of control. Where do you store that?