Description from Flora of China
Vines climbing or shrubs, woody, less often suberect or herbs, dioecious, usually with short, thick rhizomes. Stems and branches usually prickly. Petiole usually narrowly winged proximally, with an abscission zone between winged portion and apex; tendrils often present. Leaf blade usually ovate to lanceolate, main veins 3--7, connected by a network of cross veins and veinlets. Inflorescence borne in axil of leaf or scalelike bract, of 1(--3) umbels or a panicle, raceme, or spike of umbels; peduncle sometimes with a scalelike prophyll at base. Flowers small; tepals 6, usually free (connate in Smilax synandra). Male flowers: stamens 6, rarely 8 or more, inserted at base of tepals; anthers mostly 1-loculed. Female flowers: ovary 3-loculed; ovules 1 or 2 per locule; style very short; stigmas 3; staminodes absent to 6. Fruit a berry, red to black, usually 1- or 2-seeded. Seeds dark brown.
About 300 species: tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions of both hemispheres; 79 species (39 endemic) in China.
(Authors: Chen Xinqi (陈心启 Chen Sing-chi); Tetsuo Koyama1)