Mystery Vine
This appeared in our yard several years ago.

We live on an old farm in the middle of New York state, about an hour from Binghamton, Cooperstown, and Syracuse.
Summers here are rarely above 90 degrees, and the coldest was in 1980 when it was 32 degrees below zero (but that's another story).
We get around 100 inches of snow, but because of lake effect snow, we usually get a bit each day, and that covers up the grimy road-side snow.
If you can stand the long winters, it is a beautiful place to live.

The vine does not grow from last year's stock - it pretty much dies back in the spring, and just when you think it will not return, it begins growing - several inches a day!

The fencing behind the fine is eight feet tall.
(Deer are a serious problem for gardeners here.)

We have tied it to a stake with clothesline.

From the central stalk (there are two this year) it sends out "branches" that develop a large flower ball at the end.
The flower ball appeals to ants, but the bees and butterflies do not seem particularly interested.
The leaves are not directly opposite each other.  Each leaf is attached to the central stem.
There are tendrils that grab.   There are no thorns or spikes.
The flowers will become a fruit.

This will become a round ball of small purple/black fruits, each bigger than a BB, but smaller than a marble.
The fruits must not be particularly tasty, since they stay on the vine for much of the winter.

Woodchucks and deer do not bother the vine.  

The mystery has been solved.  
It is Smilax herbacea, often called carrion flower, because it really stinks when blooming.

The fruit are supposed to be edible and make a fine(?) jelly.

I think the common name of Jacob's ladder is much better than the other common name of carrion flower. I can't imagine offering a taste of carrion flower jelly!

There are two stalks here, but neither seem to be the male flower.

Boy it sure looks like the female flower

This drawing is quite like the plant:

It matches the distribution map:

photos by Leslie
published June 12, 2007
fruit pictures added July 13, 2007

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