A Dangerous Beauty

My Pick for the Ohio Native Landscape #3 Aralia spinosa

I wanted to learn about a few shrubs and small tress that I have not grown and Devil’s-walkingstick leapt to the front of the list. This plant is wicked! Its flowers, incredibly large leaves and attractive berries draw you in and then its vicious thorns wreak havoc on unsuspecting bare arms, legs and loose fitting clothing.

A pioneer plant, Devil’s-walkingstick will spread readily, if not vigorously, in an open site, such as a field or lawn. In a natural setting, the shrub would eventually be overtaken by the next succession of trees. Therefore, in a woodland or edge of woods setting it will not crowd out other vegetation.

The 3-5’ long leaves alone are worth noting. However, it is the greenish-white blooms that catch the eye in mid-summer. Not to be outdone, purple, pea-size berries that strain the branches with their weight in the fall and winter will also make you stop and take note.

Attracts bees, insects and butterflies. If planted around the home, would most definitely keep out intruders and nosey neighbors with its thorns.

Interesting facts: The Devil’s walkingstick was used in Victorian gardens as a grotesque ornamental. Its spicy roots and fruit were used by early settlers and native Americans as a remedy for tooth ache. Another source reports a Frenchman, writing his history of Louisiana in the late 1700's, mentioning the inner bark being used to soothe aching teeth. The leaves are poisonous to cattle. Its wood is useless even as firewood.

Just the Facts
Aralia spinosa
Devil’s-walkingstick or Hercule's-club

AKA: Angelica Tree, Angelica-tree, Devil's Walking Stick, Devil's Walkingstick, Devil's walking stick, False Prickly Ash, Hercule's Club, Hercules Club, Hercules' Club, Prickly Ash, Prickly Elder, Toothache Tree
Leaves: Alternate, bi- to tri-pinnately compound, 32-64’ long with prickles. Dark green to blue-green with a tropical effect.
Fall: May have some fall color but not reliable.
Size: 10-20’ However it can grow to 30-40’. ** Dirr shares that he saw a large planting in Mt Airy Arboretum, Ohio and the effect was quite handsome.
Fruit: Purple- black, .25’ long and wide with 3-5 seed-like stones in August to October.
Planting: Easy to transplant. Well drained, moist fertile soils, but will also make itself at home in dry, rocky or heavy soils.
Full sun to part shade.
Thrives with neglect and does well under city conditions.
No known pests or diseases
Habitat: Southern Pennsylvania and southern Indiana, east to Florida and Texas. Introduced 1688.
Photos from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower web site.

1 comment:

  1. There are many times gardens and the forest which made us scarier. As in the forest there are some herbs and shrubs which are dangerous.