Widespread in its native range throughout the eastern US and southeastern Canada, this woody vine climbs over vegetation and structures as well as across the ground using tendrils. It is typically found in forests, grasslands, and freshwater shores, preferring sandy soils with a range of moisture and sunlight conditions. Able to grow up to 20 feet, this semi-evergreen vine may form dense thickets and tangle itself into other plants with its thick stems. It usually has sharp thorns and glossy green, oval-shaped leaves that may resemble hearts.
In the late spring and early summer, the common greenbrier sets clusters of dark blue berries that replace its light green flowers. The berries gain a white coating as they mature in September, after which they may persist into late winter, becoming an important winter food source. They are consumed, along with the leaves, by birds and other animals into the early spring. These include northern cardinals, white-throated sparrows, wild rabbits, and white-tailed deer, Due to its underground growth along horizontal stems, this vine is able to withstand fire and recolonize areas disturbed by fire by simply resprouting.