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Smilax china - L.
Common Name China Root
Family Smilacaceae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Shrub thickets[147] in hills and mountains[58]. Forests, thickets, hillsides, grassy slopes, shaded places along valleys or streams from near sea level to 2000 metres[266].
Range E. Asia - China, Japan.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Smilax china China Root

Smilax china China Root
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of climber
Smilax china is a deciduous Climber growing to 4.5 m (14ft 9in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Leaves;  Root.
Edible Uses: Rutin;  Tea.

Root - cooked[4, 105, 177]. Rich in starch[2], the large and fleshy roots can be dried and ground into a powder[11]. The root is harvested by severing larger roots near the crown and leaving the smaller roots to grow on[238]. Young shoots and leaves - raw or cooked[105, 159, 177, 179]. Used as a potherb[183]. The leaves are said to contain rutin, but no details of quantity were given[218]. Fruit - raw. Eaten to quench the thirst[105, 177, 183]. The fruit is about 9mm in diameter[200]. A tea is made from the leaves[177, 179, 183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Alterative;  Antipsoriatic;  Antiscrophulatic;  Carminative;  Depurative;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Skin;  
Tonic;  VD.

The root is alterative, antiscrophulatic, carminative, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and tonic[1, 4, 11, 147, 174, 178, 218]. It is considered useful when taken internally in the treatment of old syphilitic cases and is also used for certain skin diseases, including psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, enteritis, urinary tract infections, skin ulcers etc[4, 238]. Large doses can cause nausea and vomiting, which is valuable in weakened and depraved conditions due to a poisoned state of the blood[4]. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.
Other Uses

A yellow dye is made from the root and leaves when alum is used as a mordant[4, 178]. With iron sulphate, the colour is brown[4].
Cultivation details
Succeeds in most well-drained soils in sun or semi-shade[200]. Hardy to about -15°c[200]. A climbing plant, supporting itself by means of tendrils and thorns as it scrambles through small trees and shrubs. A young plant is growing and thriving close to a west-facing wall at Kew Botanical gardens[K]. This species is not the true 'China root' of medicine, see the record for S. pseudo-china[178]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Seed - sow March in a warm greenhouse[1]. This note probably refers to the tropical members of the genus, seeds of plants from cooler areas seem to require a period of cold stratification, some species taking 2 or more years to germinate[K]. We sow the seed of temperate species in a cold frame as soon as we receive it, and would sow the seed as soon as it is ripe if we could obtain it then[K]. When the seedlings eventually germinate, prick them out into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first year, though we normally grow them on in pots for 2 years. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Division in early spring as new growth begins[238]. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer. Cuttings of half-ripe shoots, July in a frame[238].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Smilax asperaSarsaparilla, Rough bindweed33
Smilax auriculataEarleaf Greenbrier22
Smilax bona-noxGreenbriar, Saw greenbrier, Dunes saw greenbrier32
Smilax cordifolia 10
Smilax discotis 10
Smilax glabratufuling23
Smilax glaucaCat Greenbrier22
Smilax glyciphyllaSarsparilla11
Smilax herbaceaCarrion Flower, Smooth carrionflower41
Smilax hispidaHag Briar22
Smilax lanceifolia 21
Smilax laurifoliaLaurel Greenbrier32
Smilax nipponica 32
Smilax pseudochinaFalse China Root32
Smilax riparia 20
Smilax rotundifoliaHorse Brier, Roundleaf greenbrier, Brambles32
Smilax sieboldii 10
Smilax tamnoidesBristly Greenbrier22
Smilax trinervula 10
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Botanical References
Links / References
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Readers comment
Elizabeth H.
maria bodner Sat Apr 19 13:31:19 2003
I would be interested in some tubers or seed of Smilax china (I could not find some in Germany)and of Apios americana. Please tell me if it´s available and how I can pay (sent Euros in a letter?) I find your database very useful and I am searching and learning quite a lot (I´m working on a farm (organic) and we just start looking for more perennial plants)

My Adress: Maria Bodner Neubergstr. 24 D-97450 Arnstein E-Mail:maria.bodner@bnmsp.de

Elizabeth H.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future Fri Dec 28 2007
Although related to the medicinal sarsaparilla, this is a different species that has some similar uses. The true sarsaparilla is usually obtained from a number of Central American species, particularly Smilax regelii which grows in Honduras.
Elizabeth H.
joseph stave Thu Dec 27 2007
Is po-hsi ( smilax china) the same as sarsaparilla root? joestave@yahoo.com
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Subject : Smilax china  

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