Smilax glycophylla: Sweet Sarsparilla

Smilax glycophylla

Also known as sweet sarsparilla.

A small evergreen climbing plant, it is dioecious where individual flowers are either sex but not self-fertile, and common in woodlands, dappled shade, and rainforests. Leaves are three-veined with a glaucous under-surface, lanceolate 4-10 cm width with coiling tendrils growing upwards of 8 cm, producing black globose berries 5-8 mm in diameter.


The plant is edible, with leaves chewed or used as a tea substitute, sugar substitute, and believed via folklore to be an alterative, antiscorbutic, diuretic, pectoral, and tonic. The leaves used medicinally by indigenous peoples as a tea substitute. It was used by pioneering colones to treat scurvy, coughs, and chest problems. The leaves,stems, and flowers contain glycoside glyciphyllin. It is used as food and medicine, also for beverages.


  • n.d. “Smilax glycophylla – Sm”. Website referenced 6/23/21 at
  • n.d. “Smilax glyciphylla”. website referenced 6/23/21 at
  • Wikipedia n.d. “Smilax gylcophylla”. Website referenced 6/23/21 at