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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This is a large shrub or small tree that is 8-30' tall at maturity, forming a long narrow trunk and either a sparsely branched or unbranched crown. The trunk is up to 6" across (rarely up to 1' across), terete (circular in circumference), and more or less spiny. Trunk bark is light gray or light brown and relatively smooth, but becoming increasingly rough with age. The spines are relatively stout, but sharp, and they are often arranged in curvilinear patterns around the surface of the trunk. In addition, large petiole-scars persist on the trunk (sometimes almost surrounding it) that have a flattened U-shape. Ascending lateral branches are sparingly produced (if at all) during later stages of development. These branches are rather stout, terete, spiny, and either light gray or light brown. Like the trunk, they also have persistent leaf-scars. Alternate compound leaves occur toward the apex of the trunk and the apices of any lateral branches; they are widely spreading. These compound leaves are 2-4' long and 1¾-3½' across; they are mostly bipinnate, although some leaves are partially tripinnate. Along the primary rachis of each compound leaf, there are several pairs of simple-pinnate leaves. Along the secondary rachises of these simple-pinnate leaves, there are 5-13 leaflets, although some of these leaflets are replaced by a trifoliate arrangement of 3 leaflets when the compound leaves are tripinnate. Individual leaflets are 2-3½" long and 1½-3" across; they are narrowly ovate to broadly ovate in shape, while their margins are serrated. The leaflet bases are narrowly rounded to rounded and often asymmetric, while their tips are somewhat elongated and narrow. The upper surface of leaflets is medium to dark green and glabrous, while their lower surface is pale green to nearly white and either glabrous or slightly pubescent. When leaflet pubescence occurs, it is typically restricted to the lower side of the central veins. The leaflets have short petiolules (basal stalklets) about ¼" long. The petioles of the compound leaves are up to 1½' long and their bases are stout. The petioles and rachises of the compound leaves are light green, brownish green, or light red; they are glabrous and sometimes spiny on their undersides. The apex of the trunk and apices of any lateral branches can produce 1-3 inflorescences that are individually 1½-4' long and 1-3' across. These inflorescences are compound panicles of floral umbellets. During the blooming period, the branches (peduncles, pedicels, etc.) of each inflorescence are light green to reddish green and pubescent. Each umbellet is about ¾-1" across and globoid in shape, consisting of 12-20 flowers and their pedicels. In each inflorescence, the flowers are either all perfect or there is a mixture of perfect and unisexual flowers. Each flower is up to ¼" long, consisting of 5 triangular petals that are white, a short-tubular calyx that is light green, 5 exerted stamens (for perfect or male flowers), and a 5-celled ovary with 5 styles (for perfect or female flowers). The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer. The flowers are fragrant (reported to be lemony). Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by small berries. At maturity during the autumn, these berries are about ¼" long, ovoid-globoid in shape, finely ribbed, and either dark blue or black. These berries have thin fleshy interiors and they contain 2-5 flattened seeds. At this time, the branches of the fruiting inflorescence become red. The root system has long fleshy rhizomes, from which clonal offsets can develop. The deciduous leaves turn yellow (less often, bronze red) during the autumn.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Devil's Walkingstick (Aralia spinosa) is occasional in southern Illinois, while in the rest of the state it is absent (see Distribution Map). Illinois lies along the northwest range limit of this species. However, sometimes it is cultivated as a landscape plant in areas that are north of its natural range. Habitats include upland woodlands, lowland woodlands, wooded slopes, wooded ravines, bluffs, woodland borders, wooded areas along streams, savannas, and thickets. Devil's Walkingstick prefers areas with a history of disturbance from occasional wildfires, logging, etc., as this reduces excessive shade from overhead canopy trees.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Occurrence in North America

     AL  AR  CT  DE  FL  GA  IL  IN  KY  LA
     MD  MA  MI  MO  MS  NC  NJ  NY  OH  OK
     ON  OR  PA  RI  SC  TN  TX  VA  WA  WV
     WI

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Devil's walking stick is found naturally occurring in eastern North
America from New York and Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to
southwestern Iowa and western Texas.  It has escaped from cultivation in
New England to southern Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon,
Washington, and western Europe [4,19,33].
  • 4. Blum, Barton M. 1974. Aralia L. aralia. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 220-222. [7459]
  • 19. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]
  • 33. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

    1  Northern Pacific Border
    2  Cascade Mountains
    5  Columbia Plateau

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the term: tree

Devil's walking stick is a spiny, few-branched, flat-topped tree or
shrub 25 to 35 feet (7-10 m) tall.  It grows from extensive rhizomes
[4,24,33,36,37].  The stems tend to remain unbranched until the first
terminal inflorescences are produced at an average age of 3.5 years.
There are abundant prickles on the stems and leaves of first-year ramets
[13,36,37].
  • 4. Blum, Barton M. 1974. Aralia L. aralia. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 220-222. [7459]
  • 13. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 24. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606]
  • 33. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 36. White, Peter S. 1984. The architecture of devil's walking stick, Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae). Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. 65: 403-418. [19224]
  • 37. White, Peter S. 1988. Prickle distribution in Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae). American Journal of Botany. 75(2): 282-285. [19222]

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Devil's Walkingstick (Aralia spinosa) is occasional in southern Illinois, while in the rest of the state it is absent (see Distribution Map). Illinois lies along the northwest range limit of this species. However, sometimes it is cultivated as a landscape plant in areas that are north of its natural range. Habitats include upland woodlands, lowland woodlands, wooded slopes, wooded ravines, bluffs, woodland borders, wooded areas along streams, savannas, and thickets. Devil's Walkingstick prefers areas with a history of disturbance from occasional wildfires, logging, etc., as this reduces excessive shade from overhead canopy trees.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Habitat characteristics

More info for the terms: frequency, shrub

Devil's walking stick is found in upland and low woods, pocosins, and
savannahs [24].  It prefers rich moist soils and is found at edges of
streams, and in thickets and shrub bays [13,33].  Some of the plant
species associated with Devil's walking stick include black cherry
(Prunus serotina), eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), tree
sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum), red maple (Acer rubrum var trilobum),
American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), common persimmon (Diospyros
virginiana), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Carolina jessamine
(Gelsemium sempervirens), Bignonia capreolata, St. Andrew's cross
(Ascyrum hypericoides), common sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria),
Vaccinium spp., and passionflower (Passiflora lutea) [23].  Associates
on a Texas shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata)/white oak (Quercus alba)
community include Meliz azedarach, hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli), and
flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) [36].

Devil's walking stick is found in Louisiana in openings in upland
hardwoods, with plant associates including sassafras, American holly
(Ilex opaca), flowering dogwood, sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum),
serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), common persimmon, Vaccinium spp., grape
(Vitis spp.), eastern hophornbeam, Viburnum spp., and Carolina buckthorn
(Rhamnus caroliniana).  It is also found on gullied land and on moist
bottomlands with plant associates including American sycamore (Platanus
occidentalis) and green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) [28].

Devil's walking stick is found in southern Appalachian forests in
openings from 8,042 square feet to 10,763 square feet (750-1,000 sq m),
with the frequency of occurrence dropping off with larger gaps; it is
not found in undisturbed understory [26].
  • 13. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 23. Quarterman, Elsie; Keever, Catherine. 1962. Southern mixed hardwood forest: climax in the southeastern coastal plain, U.S.A. Ecological Monographs. 32: 167-185. [10801]
  • 24. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606]
  • 26. Runkle, James Reade. 1982. Patterns of disturbance in some old-growth mesic forests of eastern North American. Ecology. 63(5): 1533-1546. [9261]
  • 28. Smalley, Glendon W. 1991. Classification and evaluation of forest sites on the Natchez Trace State Forest, State Resort Park, & Wildlife Management Area in w. Tennessee. SO-85. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 73 p. [17981]
  • 33. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 36. White, Peter S. 1984. The architecture of devil's walking stick, Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae). Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. 65: 403-418. [19224]

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Habitat: Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

    16  Aspen
    17  Pin cherry
    18  Paper birch
    19  Gray birch - red maple
    24  Hemlock - yellow birch
    25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
    26  Sugar maple - basswood
    27  Sugar maple
    28  Black cherry - maple
    40  Post oak - blackjack oak
    44  Chestnut oak
    52  White oak - black oak - northern red oak
    57  Yellow-poplar
    59  Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
    60  Beech - sugar maple
    63  Cottonwood
    65  Pin oak - sweetgum
    75  Shortleaf pine
    76  Shortleaf pine - oak
    80  Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
    81  Loblolly pine
    82  Loblolly pine - hardwood
    83  Longleaf pine - slash pine
    87  Sweet gum - yellow-poplar
   108  Red maple
   109  Hawthorn

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

   K089  Black Belt
   K100  Oak - hickory forest
   K101  Elm - ash forest
   K102  Beech - maple forest
   K103  Mixed mesophytic forest
   K104  Appalachian oak forest
   K106  Northern hardwoods
   K107  Northern hardwoods - fir forest
   K108  Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
   K109  Transition between K104 and K106
   K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest
   K113  Southern floodplain forest
   K114  Pocosin

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

   FRES12  Longleaf - slash pine
   FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES15  Oak - hickory
   FRES16  Oak - gum - cypress
   FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch

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Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers are cross-pollinated primarily by bees. Both nectar and pollen are available as rewards to such floral visitors. Very few insects are known to feed destructively on Devil's Walkingstick (Aralia spinosa). Sometimes this tree (or shrub) becomes defoliated during early autumn by the polyphagous Epicauta funebris (Margined Blister Beetle). The abundant berries are eaten by such birds as the Cedar Waxwing, White-Throated Sparrow, Swainson's Thrush, and Wood Thrush. Until it became extinct, the Passenger Pigeon also fed on the berries. Mammals that have been observed to feed on the berries include the Black Bear, Red Fox, Striped Skunk, and Eastern Chipmunk. These fruit-eating animals spread the seeds of this tree (or shrub) to new locations. White-Tailed Deer reportedly browse on the foliage upon occasion.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / feeds on
densley gregarious, immersed then erumpent. pycnidium of Macrophoma coelomycetous anamorph of Macrophoma millepuncta var. spinosae feeds on petiole of Aralia spinosa

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General Ecology

Plant Response to Fire

Removal of aboveground portions of stems by means other than fire is
reported to result in vigorous resprouting of new ramets.  It is
reasonable to assume, although not documented, that fire death of
aboveground stems would have the same result [36].  Periodic fires
create openings in forest canopies that allow Devil's walking stick to
establish and maintain populations [16].
  • 16. Johnson, A. Sydney; Hillestad, Hilburn O.; Shanholtzer, Sheryl Fanning; Shanholtzer, G. Frederick. 1974. An ecological survey of the coastal region of Georgia. Scientific Monograph Series No 3, NPS 116. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. 233 p. [16102]
  • 36. White, Peter S. 1984. The architecture of devil's walking stick, Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae). Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. 65: 403-418. [19224]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the terms: ground residual colonizer, secondary colonizer, tree

   Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker
   Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
   Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
   Secondary colonizer - off-site seed

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Successional Status

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More info for the terms: hardwood, presence

Obligate Initial Community Species

Devil's walking stick is shade intolerant [31].  In a study of
succession in Illinois oak (Quercus velutina) woodlands , Shotola [27]
reported that a population of Devil's walking stick (documented in 1967)
decreased as a population of sugar maple (Acer saccarum) increased; by
1983, no individuals were found.  The assumption is that the increased
canopy coverage was unfavorable to Devil's walking stick.  Devil's
walking stick is also found in abundance in clearcuts, but not in
adjacent intact pine plantations in Ohio.  The population on this site
increased in the third and fourth years after the clearcut.  There is
concern that the presence of Devil's walking stick on these sites may
delay subsequent establishment of hardwood species [1].
  • 1. Artigas, Francisco J.; Boerner, Ralph E. J. 1989. Advance regeneration and seed banking of woody plants in Ohio pine plantations: implications for landscape change. Landscape Ecology. 2(3): 139-150. [13633]
  • 27. Shotola, Steven J.; Weaver, G. T.; Robertson, P. A.; Ashby, W. C. 1992. Sugar maple invasion of an old-growth oak-hickory forest in southwestern Illinois. The American Midland Naturalist. 127(1): 125-138. [17581]
  • 31. Stevens, George C.; Perkins, Anjeanette L. 1992. The branching habits and life history of woody plants. The American Naturalist. 139(2): 267-275. [17983]

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Regeneration Processes

Devil's walking stick perennates by rhizomes, producing ramets.  Leaves
may be killed by frost in winter; severe frost can kill stems back to
ground level [13].  Flowers are pollinated by insects, mostly bees.
Seeds are dispersed by frugivores, and germination is in the spring
following stratification [8,32,33].  Artificial propagation can be
achieved through root cuttings [32].
  • 8. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 13. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 32. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 33. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: phanerophyte

   Phanerophyte (mesophanerophyte)

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Life Form

More info for the terms: shrub, tree

Tree, Shrub

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Fire Management Considerations

Since populations of Devil's walking stick are maintained only on
disturbed areas, periodic fires that create disturbed areas and forest
openings would result in seral sites that could include Devil's walking
stick [15,16].
  • 15. Hellgren, Eric C.; Vaughan, Michael R. 1988. Seasonal food habits of black bears in Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia - North Carolina. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 42: 295-305. [19221]
  • 16. Johnson, A. Sydney; Hillestad, Hilburn O.; Shanholtzer, Sheryl Fanning; Shanholtzer, G. Frederick. 1974. An ecological survey of the coastal region of Georgia. Scientific Monograph Series No 3, NPS 116. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. 233 p. [16102]

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

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Devil's walking stick flowers in July and August, setting fruit
that ripens from September to October [33].
  • 33. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Aralia spinosa

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Aralia spinosa

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Common in the eastern U.S.

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Management

Management considerations

More info for the term: cover

Control:  Devil's walking stick is killed by aerosol applications of
glyphosate at rates of 1.50 to 2.25 pounds per acre (0.56-2.52 kg/ha)
applied three times at 2-week intervals from mid-August to mid-September
[35].  Korostoff [17] reported that Devil's walking stick is controlled
by cutting and application of herbicide to the stump.  The most
effective treatment reported by Loftis [20] is injection of stems larger
than 2 inches in diameter with herbicide; basal sprays were ineffective
on his study sites.

Establishment:  Devil's walking stick populations are maintained only on
disturbed sites.  When the overstory cover becomes thick enough, Devil's
walking stick declines.  Defoliation by gypsy moth infestation in
Pennsylvania and Maryland resulted in an increase in stems per acre of
Devil's walking stick, due both to injury of Devil's walking stick
ramets and to release by removal of overstory [12].  Mowing or cutting
of stems results in vigorous sprouting of new ramets from underground
rhizomes and is recommended for maintenance of vigorous stands [14,15].
Fire also produces appropriate disturbances and stem damage, and could
be used to maintain Devil's walking stick stands [36].
  • 12. Hix, David M.; Fosbroke, David E.; Hicks, Ray R., Jr.; Gottschalk, Kurt W. 1991. Development of regeneration following gypsy moth defoliation of Appalachian Plateau and Ridge & Valley hardwood stands. In: McCormick, Larry H.; Gottschalk, Kurt W., eds. Proceedings, 8th central hardwood forest conference; 1991 March 4-6; University Park, PA. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-148. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 347-359. [15323]
  • 14. Hellgren, Eric C.; Vaughan, Michael R.; Stauffer, Dean F. 1991. Macrohabitat use by black bears in a southeastern wetland. Journal of Wildlife Management. 55(3): 442-448. [15420]
  • 15. Hellgren, Eric C.; Vaughan, Michael R. 1988. Seasonal food habits of black bears in Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia - North Carolina. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 42: 295-305. [19221]
  • 17. Korostoff, Neil P. 1990. Urban ecosystem restoration: the case of the forested urban stream valley park. In: Hughes, H. Glenn; Bonnicksen, Thomas M., eds. Restoration '89: the new management challenge: Proceedings, 1st annual meeting of the Society for Ecological Restoration; 1989 January 16-20; Oakland, CA. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Society for Ecological Restoration: 110-124. [14692]
  • 20. Loftis, David L. 1978. Preharvest herbicide control of undesirable vegetation in southern Appalachian hardwoods. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 2(2): 51-54. [10632]
  • 35. Wendel, G. W.; Kochenderfer, J. N. 1982. Glyphosate controls hardwoods in West Virginia. Res. Pap. NE-497. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 7 p. [9869]
  • 36. White, Peter S. 1984. The architecture of devil's walking stick, Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae). Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. 65: 403-418. [19224]

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is partial sun, moist to mesic conditions that are well-drained, and fertile loamy soil. However, this tree (or shrub) also adapts to soil that contains rocky material, clay, or sand, and it has a wide pH tolerance. The flowers and berries are not produced until the third or fourth year of development, if not later. While this tree (or shrub) can be planted north of its range (to about Zone 5), it may die back to the ground if there is exposure to severe winter cold.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Insects harvest pollen and nectar from the flowers of Devil's walking
stick [8].  The fruits are used as food by many birds and other
frugivores, including black bear [7,8,14,15].  Van Dersal reported that
deer use Devil's walking stick as browse [32].  White [37] did not
observe any deer browsing of young ramets but did observe stem damage
due to antler rubbing.
  • 7. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, exclusive of lower peninsular Florida. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 409 p. [12906]
  • 8. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 14. Hellgren, Eric C.; Vaughan, Michael R.; Stauffer, Dean F. 1991. Macrohabitat use by black bears in a southeastern wetland. Journal of Wildlife Management. 55(3): 442-448. [15420]
  • 15. Hellgren, Eric C.; Vaughan, Michael R. 1988. Seasonal food habits of black bears in Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia - North Carolina. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 42: 295-305. [19221]
  • 32. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 37. White, Peter S. 1988. Prickle distribution in Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae). American Journal of Botany. 75(2): 282-285. [19222]

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Other uses and values

Devil's walking stick bark, roots, and berries have been used for
medicinal purposes, both by Native Americans and European settlers.  It
is planted as an ornamental in North America and Europe [33].
  • 33. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Wikipedia

Aralia spinosa

Aralia spinosa, commonly known as Devil's Walkingstick, is a woody species of plants in the genus Aralia, family Araliaceae, native to eastern North America. The various names refer to the viciously sharp, spiny stems, petioles, and even leaf midribs. It has also been known as Angelica-tree.[1]

This species is sometimes called Hercules' Club, Prickly Ash, or Prickly Elder, common names it shares with the unrelated Zanthoxylum clava-herculis. For this reason, Aralia spinosa is sometimes confused with that species and mistakenly called the Toothache Tree,[2] but it does not have the medicinal properties of Zanthoxylum clava-herculis.

Aralia spinosa is occasionally cultivated for its exotic, tropical appearance, having large lacy compound leaves. It is closely related to the Asian species Aralia elata, a more commonly cultivated species with which it is easily confused.

Description[edit]

Aralia spinosa is an aromatic spiny deciduous shrub or small tree growing 2–8 m (6–25 ft) tall, with a simple or occasionally branched stem with very large bipinnate leaves 70–120 cm (28–48 in) long. The trunks are up to 15–20 cm (6–8 in) in diameter, with the plants umbrella-like in habit with open crowns. The young stems are stout and thickly covered with sharp spines. The plants generally grow in clusters of branchless trunks, although stout wide-spreading branches are occasionally produced.[1]

The flowers are creamy-white, individually small (about 5 mm or 0.2 in across) but produced in large composite panicles 30–60 cm (12–24 in) long; flowering is in the late summer. The fruit is a purplish-black berry 6–8 mm (0.24–0.3 in) in diameter, ripening in the fall. The roots are thick and fleshy.

The doubly or triply compound leaves are the largest of any temperate tree in the continental United States, often about a meter (three feet) long and 60 cm (two feet) wide, with leaflets about 5–8 cm (2–3 in) long. The petioles are prickly, with swollen bases. In the autumn the leaves turn to a peculiar bronze red touched with yellow which makes the tree conspicuous and attractive.[1]

The habit of growth and general appearance of Aralia spinosa and related tree-forming Aralia species are unique. It is usually found as a group of unbranched stems, rising to the height of 3.5–6 m (12–20 ft), which bear upon their summits a crowded cluster of doubly or triply compound leaves, thus giving to each stem a certain tropical palm-like appearance. In the south it is said to reach the height of 15 m (50 ft), still retaining its palm-like aspect. However, further north, the slender, swaying, palm-like appearance is most characteristic of younger plants that have not been damaged by winter storms.[1]

The trunk, showing the bark, leaf scars, and spines.
  • Bark: Light brown, divided into rounded broken ridges. Branchlets one-half to two-thirds of an inch in diameter, armed with stout, straight or curved, scattered prickles and nearly encircled by narrow leaf scars. At first light yellow brown, shining and dotted, later light brown.
  • Wood: Brown with yellow streaks; light, soft, brittle, close-grained.
  • Winter buds: Terminal bud chestnut brown, one-half to three-fourths of an inch long, conical, blunt; axillary buds flattened, triangular, one-fourth of an inch in length.
  • Leaves: Clustered at the end of the branches, compound, bi- and tri-pinnate, three to four feet long, two and a half feet broad. The pinnae are unequally pinnate, having five or six pairs of leaflets and a long stalked terminal leaflet; these leaflets are often themselves pinnate. The last leaflets are ovate, two to three inches long, wedge-shaped or rounded at base, serrate or dentate, acute; midrib and primary veins prominent. They come out of the bud a bronze green, shining, somewhat hairy; when full grown are dark green above, pale beneath; midribs frequently furnished with prickles. Petioles stout, light brown, eighteen to twenty inches in length, clasping, armed with prickles. Stipules acute, one-half inch long.
  • Flowers: July, August. Perfect or polygamomonoecious, cream white, borne in many-flowered umbels arranged in compound panicles, forming a terminal racemose cluster, three to four feet in length which rises, solitary or two or three together, above the spreading leaves. Bracts and bractlets lanceolate, acute, persistent.
  • Calyx: Calyx tube coherent with the ovary, minutely five-toothed.
  • Corolla: Petals five, white, inserted on margin of the disk, acute, slightly inflexed at the apex, imbricate in bud.
  • Stamens: Five, inserted on margin of the disk, alternate with the petals; filaments thread-like; anthers oblong, attached on the back, introrse, two-celled; cells opening longitudinally.
  • Pistil: Ovary inferior, five-celled; styles five, connivent; stigmas capitate.
  • Fruit: Berry-like drupe, globular, black, one-fourth of an inch long, five-angled, crowned with the blackened styles. Flesh thin, dark.[1]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Aralia spinosa is widespread in the eastern United States, ranging from New York to Florida along the Atlantic coast, and westward to Ohio, Illinois, and Texas. It prefers a deep moist soil.[1] The plants typically grow in the forest Understory or at the edges of forests, often forming clonal thickets by sprouting from the roots.

This tree was admired by the Iroquois because of its usefulness, and for its rarity. The Iroquois would take the saplings of the tree and plant them near their villages and on islands, so that animals wouldn't eat the valuable fruit. The fruit was used in many of the natives' foods. The women would take the flowers and put them in their hair because of the lemony smell. The flowers could also be traded for money.

Uses[edit]

The young leaves can be eaten if gathered before the prickles harden. They are then chopped finely and cooked as a potherb.

Aralia spinosa was introduced into cultivation in 1688 and is still grown for its decorative foliage, prickly stems, large showy flower panicles [clusters], and distinctive fall color. These plants are slow growing, tough and durable, do well in urban settings, but bear numerous prickles on their stems, petioles, and leaflets. These plants can be propagated from seeds or root cuttings.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons. pp. 165–168. 
  2. ^ Kristina Connor. "Aralia spinosa". Wildland Shrubs of the United States and its Territories: Thamnic Descriptions, General Technical Report IITF-WB-1, Edited by John K. Francis. International Institute of Tropical Forestry. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  3. ^ Poor, Janet Meakin, and Nancy P. Brewster. 1994. Plants that merit attention Vol 2, Shrubs. Portland, OR: Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-347-8 Page 34.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

More info for the term: tree

Devil's walking stick
prickly ash
Hercules club
angelica tree
prickly elder
pick tree
toothache tree
shotbush

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The accepted scientific name of Devil's walking stick is Aralia spinosa
L. There are no named varieties [7,8,24].
  • 7. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, exclusive of lower peninsular Florida. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 409 p. [12906]
  • 8. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 24. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606]

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