devil's walking-stick
Aralia spinosa L.
  • ALTERNATE COMMON NAME: prickly ash
  • LEAVES: deciduous, alternate, very large, twice to thrice odd-pinnately compound, closely set, giving an umbrella appearance; petioles to ca. 10” long, dilated at base and partly fused with stipules, petiole clasping the stem obliquely; leaves, including petioles, to ca. 60” long, triangular in outline; portions of leaves (petioles, midribs) armed with prickles or not
  • FLOWER: perfect (bisexual), small, with 5 white to yellowish spreading or reflexed petals; inflorescence a terminal compound panicle, the smallest divisions of which consisting of umbels of flowers; flowering in August
  • FRUIT: globose, purplish black 5-pitted drupe with 5 persistent styles at top
  • TWIGS: stems typically unbranched until the season after the first inflorescence is produced, then sparingly with ascending branches; leaf scars raised, narrow, nearly completely encircling stem, with vascular bundle scars in a line; shoots with pale orange lenticels, armed with straight or curved prickles
  • BARK: thin, brown, with flat interlacing ridges and narrow fissures, well-armed with prickles, prickles sloughing with age
  • FORM: shrub or small tree to ca. 25’ tall and 8” dbh, rhizomatous and forming colonies
  • HABITAT: upland and lowland woods and thickets
  • WETLAND DESIGNATION: In the "Western Gulf Coast Subregion" of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain Region, this species is Facultative Upland (FACU): Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands. In the remainder of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain Region, this species is Facultative (FAC): Occurs in wetlands or non-wetlands
  • RANGE: southeastern US (broadly) [USGS Range Map]
  • USES: ornamental, possibly erosion control
  • WILDLIFE: heavily browsed by whitetail deer in spring and summer, larger plants used as rub trees; fruit eaten by some songbirds
  • Best Recognition Features:
    1. stems unbranched or sparingly so, stems and sometimes leaves armed with prickles
    2. narrow leaf scars nearly encircling shoots
    3. large closely-set twice- or thrice-pinnately compound leaves
    4. inflorescence a large terminal panicle, flowers small and whitish, fruit a purple-black drupe