Things frequently confused with Smilax.

I've been building a list of plants that people on iNaturalist tend to call "Smilax" when they aren't. Here's what I have so far, and I'll amend it when I get other examples. These are good ones to consider if you think you've got a Smilax but aren't sure.

The top three candidates:
Carolina snailseed, Cocculus carolinus,

Wild yam, Dioscorea villosa

Autumn Clematis, Clematis terniflora (notice it actually has 3-part compound leaves that are opposite on the stem).

Other foolers:

Bengal trumpet, Thunbergia (Florida)

Viola, when first emerging, can look like Smilax herbacea or other non-woody Smilax.


Elfin shoes Croomia pauciflora

Devil's walking stick, Aralia spinosa,

Stickseed, Hackelia virginiana (midwest) -

American Water-Plantain, Alisma subcordatum, especially young ones (

American plantain, Plantago rugelii ( Notice the hairy leaf surface, which Smilax doesn't have. Also other Plantago (

Wild sarsaparilla, Aralis nudicaulis -
(this doesn’t look like Smilax, but some people know the name “Sarsaparilla vine” for Smilax pumila and end up putting this label on it).

I've been fooled by some of these many times!

Posted on February 28, 2022 10:15 PM by janetwright janetwright


Great list. Elfin shoes Croomia pauciflora was a new one to me. I think I have a photo of one somewhere.

Posted by botanicaltreasures over 2 years ago

I appreciate this list. I've confused Carolina snailseed for Smilax.

Posted by suz over 2 years ago

Good grief, some of these are remarkably similar to Smilax, not just sort of like it. I am very glad most don't grow in New England (yet). Wild yam is bad enough, and way too close appearing. I've seen Autumn clematis as a flowering adult here, those leaves in the observation make me realize care has to be taken with everything. Thank you, Janet!

Posted by patswain over 2 years ago

As always wonderful science.

Posted by yarddoc over 2 years ago

Another very helpful post...thank you!

Posted by dcarrie over 2 years ago

Fun list!

Posted by sedgequeen over 2 years ago

THANK YOU! Glad it's not just me.

Posted by nirnroot 12 months ago

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