- Common Name(s):
- Devil's walking stick, Devil's walkingstick, Hercules' club, Hercules's club, Hercules's-club
- Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs, Trees
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. 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, 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. New foliage is bronze changing from yellow to red-orange in the fall. This plant is easy to transplant and makes an excellent addition to a pollinator garden.
The bark is gray-brown with persisting prickles and shallow furrows.
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.
- Deciduous shrub or small tree with prickles; leaves alternate, 2-pinnately divided; flowers white in large, terminal clusters; fruits black berries
- 10-20 ft.
- The Devils walking stick has small, 5-petaled, white flowers (to 1/8” across) bloom in huge, terminal, umbellose panicles (to 24” long) in July–August. The flowers are quite showy and very attractive to bees. The flowers are followed by clusters of fleshy, spherical, black drupes that ripen in late August-October. Its drupes are quite attractive to birds.
- The Devils 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.
- Stiff branches at right angles
- Sun to shade; range of soil conditions
- 3 to 4 ft. cluster of creamy white flowers in summer; compact cluster of purple-black berries
- USA, NC
- Poison Part:
- Raw, unripe berries (OK when ripe); bark and roots
- Poison Delivery Mode:
- Ingestion, dermatitis
- Skin irritation from bark and roots; symptoms of ingestion unknown
- Toxic Principle:
- CAUSES ONLY LOW TOXICITY IF EATEN. SKIN IRRITATION MINOR OR LASTING ONLY FOR A FEW MINUTES.
- Found in:
- Forest or natural area at edge of woods, along streams in moist woods
- 6-10 ft.
- Growth Rate:
- Slow to moderate
- The Devils walking stick has alternate, compound, bipinnate to tripinnate, medium to dark green leaves grow 2-5 feet long and 2-4 feet wide, with individual leaflets (2-4” long) having toothed margins. Its new foilage is bronze in color and turns pale yellow to dull purple brown in fall.
NCCES plant id: 442