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Hercules's Club Aralia spinosa

Phonetic Spelling
ah-RAY-lee-ah spih-NO-sah
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Aralia spinosa, commonly called devil’s walking stick or Hercules club, gets its common name from the stout, sharp spines found on its leaf stalks, stems and branches. This is a large, upright, suckering, deciduous shrub that typically grows to 10-15’ tall, but infrequently grows as a small flat topped tree to as much as 35’ tall. In its native range in the eastern U.S., it is commonly found in wood margins, fields and pastures as well as a forest or natural area at edge of woods or along streams in moist woods. It has interesting compound foliage, late summer flowers, juicy black fruit and spiny stems give this shrub distinctive and unique ornamental interest. Sparse, upright, mostly unbranched, club-like branches, ringed with conspicuous leaf scars and spines, these plants are typically naked at the bottom but crowned at the top by umbrella-like canopies of huge compound leaves.

It has stiff branches at right angles and huge, compound leaves that are the largest in North America. This plant is easy to transplant and makes an excellent addition to a pollinator garden.

Growth rate: Slow to moderate

Site: The Devil's walking stick grows well in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, fertile, humusy loams, but will tolerate a wide range of soils including rocky and clayey ones. This plant is drought tolerate. Generally tolerates many urban pollutants. It is best sited in areas sheltered from strong winds to help protect the large compound leaves. It is also easily grown from seed, division of suckers or root cuttings. Plants will spread somewhat rapidly by self-seeding and suckering to form thickets. Promptly remove root suckers to prevent unwanted naturalization.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:   Late summer           Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Fall

Wildlife Value:  This plant is highly resistant to damage from deer.  Butterflies and other insects nectar at the blooms of this plant.  Its fruit is eaten by songbirds, small mammals, foxes, racoons and opossums.  

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  This plant has no serious insect or disease problems, however, it is susceptible to leaf spots. Aphids and mealybugs may appear. Handling its bark and roots may cause allergic skin reactions.

Cultivars:
  • 'Variegata'
Tags:
#bees#butterflies#sun#deciduous#birds#pollinators#songbirds#poisonous#full sun#drought tolerant#shrub#showy#tree#swallowtail butterflies#clay soil#urban#rocky soil#ornamental#small mammals#low flammability#foxes#racoons#opossums#deer resistant#loamy soil#fire resistant
Cultivars:
  • 'Variegata'
Tags:
#bees#butterflies#sun#deciduous#birds#pollinators#songbirds#poisonous#full sun#drought tolerant#shrub#showy#tree#swallowtail butterflies#clay soil#urban#rocky soil#ornamental#small mammals#low flammability#foxes#racoons#opossums#deer resistant#loamy soil#fire resistant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Aralia
    Species:
    spinosa
    Family:
    Araliaceae
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    USA, NC
    Distribution:
    Throughout
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant is highly resistant to damage from deer. Butterflies and other insects nectar at the blooms of this plant. Its fruit is eaten by songbirds, small mammals, foxes, racoons and opossums.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Enhancement
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire, range of soil conditions; transplant; deer; drought; many urban pollutants
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 35 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Tree
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Texture:
    Medium
    Appendage:
    Prickles
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Purple/Lavender
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Description:
    This plant has a compact cluster of purple-black berries. The flowers are followed by clusters of fleshy, spherical, black drupes that ripen in late August-October. Its drupes are quite attractive to birds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    This plant has 3 to 4 ft. cluster of creamy white flowers in summer. The Devil's walking stick has small, 5-petaled, white flowers (to 1/8” across) bloom in huge, terminal, clusters of umbellose panicles (to 24” long) in July–August. The flowers are quite showy and very attractive to bees.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Orange
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    The Devil's walking stick has alternate, compound, bipinnate to tripinnate, medium to dark green leaves that grow 2-5 feet long and 2-4 feet wide, with individual leaflets (2-4” long) having toothed margins. Its new foliage is bronze in color and turns pale yellow to dull purple brown or even yellow to red-orange in fall. This plant is ringed with conspicuous leaf scars and spines.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Bark Description:
    The bark is gray-brown with persisting prickles and shallow furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Pollution
    Urban Conditions
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Poisonous
  • Poison:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    CAUSES ONLY LOW TOXICITY IF EATEN. SKIN IRRITATION MINOR OR LASTING ONLY FOR A FEW MINUTES. Poisonous by ingestion or dermatitis. [Poisonous parts: Raw, unripe berries (OK when ripe); bark and roots]. Symptoms may include: Skin irritation from bark and roots; symptoms of ingestion unknown. Handling its bark and roots may cause allergic skin reactions.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Unknown
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Fruits
    Roots