Greenbriers

Native Shrubs ... in wildlife landscaping

West Virginia Native Plant Society
West Virginia Nongame Wildlife Program

Common Greenbrier (Horsebrier) - Smilax rotundifolia
Saw Brier or Glaucus-leaved Greenbrier - S. glauca
Hispid (Bristly) Greenbrier - S. hispida

  Form: Climbing vines with woody stems, armed with spines or prickles, the leaf stems bearing a pair of coiling tendrils that support the vine.
  Bark and Twigs: Common - Light green stem, branches 40angled, straight stout prickles.
Saw Brier - Brownish stem with white coating, many small sharp prickles.
Hispid - Dark green stem with numerous long and weak black bristly prickles.
  Leaves: Common - Thick, roundish, shiny, 2 to 5 inches long
Saw Brier - Thin, roundish, whitish coating beneath, 3 to 6 inches long
Hispid - Thin, dark green, shiny above and beneath, 3 to 6 inches long.
  Fruit: Common and Saw Brier - Bluish-black with white coating (bloom).
Hispid - Bluish-black berry without white coating.
West Virginia Range:
Common - Common throughout West Virginia.
Saw Brier - Common throughout West Virginia.
Hispid - Throughout West Virginia, but not common.
Natural Habitat:
Common and Saw Brier - In thickets, old fields, fencerows and along borders of woodlands. Also in open dry woods. Hispid - Rich (often alkaline) thickets, open woods and fields.
Wildlife Use:
Very important plant for food and cover. The fruits remain on the plants through winter and become very important in late winter when more desirable fruits are gone. The fruits are eaten by black bear, raccoon, turkey, grouse, catbird, mockingbird, robin and most thrushes. The leaves and stems provide critical food for deer and rabbits.
Horticulture:
Uses: Can be used for dense tangles or barriers. Seldom used because of sharp spines and prickles and the habit of spreading freely from roots..
Light: Full sunlight, but hispid greenbrier will grow well in shade.
Soil Moisture: Common - Very adaptable from wet to dry. Saw Brier - Prefers dry soils but will tolerate moist or wet soils. Hispid - Moist, well-drained.
Soil pH: Common and Saw Brier - Acid to neutral. Hispid - Neutral to alkaline.
Problems: No known insect or disease problems. Briers can form impenetrable tangles. The stems and branches have scattered spines and prickles.

Compiled by: Linnie Coon, outdoor writer and naturalist, Comfort, West Virginia

Written by West Virginia Native Plant Society members and jointly published with the WV Nongame Program

Illustration from Flora of West Virginia, Strausbaugh and Core