The ferocious vine growing on my back fence is catbrier.
Dr. Duke is probably the most famous and most respected ethnobotanist in the world. I bought several of his books when I was trying to learn about herbs. I don’t use herbs (or any other kind of medicine) these days, but I still use this great little field guide all the time, because it has tons of full-color photographs of medicinal plants, many of which seem to show up in my garden of their own volition.
Looking through the section on vines, I found a picture of catbrier that looked exactly like that treacherous thing that’s climbing the back fence.
Dr. Duke says,
“American Indians rubbed stem prickles on skin as a counterirritant to relieve localized pains, muscle cramps, twitching; leaf and stem tea used for rheumatism, stomach troubles. Wilted leaves poulticed on boils. root tea taken to help expel afterbirth.
“… Science confirms anti-inflammatory, estrogenic, cholesterol-lowering, and anti-stress activity of various Smilax (catbrier) species.”
I don’t know about that “anti-stress” thing. I find catbrier awfully stress-inducing when I’m trying to figure out how to uproot it without ripping my hands to shreds. But maybe that’s just me.
“The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns.”
— George Santayana