Q: In the July 1980 issue there was an article titled, Let Smilax Climb and Twine ( You were probably in kindergarten then.) That article referred to it as greenbrier smilax (Smilax lanceolata). In recent years (I don’t know what issues) you have written at least two articles about smilax. One was titled Easy Curb Appeal and another was One Fine Vine. In each of those you referred to Jackson Vine (Smilax smallii). My question is what is the difference and which one do I want – and where will I find it?
A: You still remember a story from 1980? I think you should go on the next archaeological dig with Indiana Jones!
Smilax smallii, also known as Jackson vine, is the updated botanical name for Smilax lanceolata. This is the best species of greenbrier for homeowner use, as the thorns on this evergreen vine appear only around its base near the ground and not along the stems and branches that twine. It gets its common name from the fact that during the Civil War, ladies in Alabama used it to decorate tables when Stonewall Jackson came to town. Today, many of the older homes in Huntsville and Birmingham used it to frame the front door. In the wild, it grows from an enormous tuber that is difficult to dig without the help of a pet boar. For that reason, few nurseries sell Jackson vine, even though it’s easy to start from seeds..
The only mail-order source I know is Woodlanders Nursery in Colleton, South Carolina www.woodlanders.net . For some reason, Woodlanders now calls it “bamboo vine.”