American Angelica Tree (Aralia Spinosa) 20 seeds

1. Soak in a warm clean water for 12 hours. Fill a seeding tray with damp seed starter potting medium. Plant aralia seeds just under the surface of the medium. Place the seed tray in a clear, plastic, sealable bag, or place a plastic dome on top of the tray.
2. Cold-stratify the seeds for 60-90 days. Stratification is putting seeds into a cool, dim environment to induce germination. Stratify seeds by sowing them in the late fall or winter and placing the tray in the garage or on the porch. If it is not fall or winter, place the seed tray in the refrigerator. Periodically mist the soil with water to keep the medium damp.
3. Remove any seeds that start to sprout during cold stratification. Transplant the sprouted seeds into individual, small pots, using high-phosphorous soil to promote root establishment. Place the pots in a warm environment with indirect light. After six to eight weeks of cold stratification, remove the tray and place it in the warm area with indirect light. Continue to transplant seeds as more sprouts form.
4. Transplant indoor aralias into larger pots, as needed. Plant aralias in humus-rich soil and keep the soil lightly dampened. Move aralias intended for the outdoors in spring, when the plant is well established. Aclimate plants to the outdoors gradually before leaving outside overnight.
5. Begin a fertilization regimen after the aralias are established. Fertilize aralias with full-strength liquid organic shrub fertilizer monthly during spring and summer. Fertilize aralias with half-strength fertilizer in fall and winter.

Aralia spinosa

  • Attributes: Genus: Aralia Species: spinosa Family: Araliaceae Life Cycle: Woody Recommended Propagation Strategy: Division Root Cutting Seed Country Or Region Of Origin: USA, NC Distribution: Throughout Fire Risk Rating: low flammability Wildlife Value: 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 Food Source 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 Moist Occasionally Wet 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 July-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 June-September. 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 Small Mammals Songbirds Resistance To Challenges: Deer Drought Fire Pollution Urban Conditions Problems: Contact Dermatitis Poisonous to Humans
  • Poisonous to Humans: 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. . 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

Devil’s Walking Stick – October 2018 Wildflower of the month


John Clayton Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society

Devil’s Walking Stick

Aralia spinosa

Devil’s Walking Stick is well-named – in winter the plant is recognized by an unbranched stem covered with sharp spines, not at all suitable for support while walking. In the growing season the plant produces enormous compound leaves that are divided three times (triply compound) and covered with irritating prickles. These are the largest leaves in North America, reaching four feet long and three feet wide, forming an umbrella-like canopy. Green in summer, they become attractive bronze-yellow to red in fall.

This is a shrub or small tree, that can grow to 30 feet, adding a tropical look to a naturalized setting or mixed shrubbery border. The greenish-white flowers are small, but in great clusters that can be three feet long, held above the leaves, and then drooping from the weight of the flowers. Covered with bees and butterflies in summer, the flowers are followed by dark-purple, juicy berries, very popular with birds and small mammals, that leave behind lacy red stalks.

Devil’s Walking Stick is very easy to grow, thrives on neglect and is adaptable to urban conditions. Full sun or part shade and any type of soil is suitable – the plant prefers moist, fertile loams but will tolerate soils with rocks and clay. Devil’s Walking Stick is often found along well-drained stream banks and roadsides. It grows rapidly and spreads by self-seeding and sprouts from the base, eventually creating a thicket. A pioneer species, the plant disappears as a forest is maturing.

Scattered throughout eastern U.S. and most counties in Virginia, Devil’s Walking Stick grows in upland and low woods and woods edges. While it could be an accent or ornamental, Devil’s Walking Stick is too aggressive for the home garden, but since the flowers and fruits are so valuable to pollinators and birds, it is suitable for planting in large lots, along the edge of woodlands.

Deer tend to avoid browsing on the prickly leaves, and the plant has no disease problems, nor insect infestations.

For more information about native plants visit

By Helen Hamilton, John Clayton Chapter, VNPS

Photo: Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa) taken by Helen Hamilton

Plant of the Week: Devil’s Walking Stick

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not promote, support or recommend plants featured in “Plant of the Week.” Please consult your local Extension office for plants suitable for your region.

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Devil’s Walking Stick
Latin: Aralia spinosa

Plant names are intriguing. Good ones rely on descriptive, colloquial word-play to give even the uninformed some sense of what the plant must be like. Devil’s Walking Stick, also known as Hercules’ Club, conjures scenes of mythical proportions, but it is doubtful that the devil ever used the small native tree as a staff or that Hercules made a club from its spiny trunk.

Devil’s Walking Stick, Aralia spinosa, is a 30-foot tall tree native in the southeast and as far north as southern Illinois. It is found throughout Arkansas and shares close kinship with English ivy, ginseng and the houseplant Schefflera. It often is found as an understory tree, peeking out from under the skirt of a forest canopy along the edges of roadways where the light conditions are more to its liking.

This tree suckers from the roots and usually is found with the original, larger tree standing in the midst of a small grove of head high erect, unbranched rake-handle sized stems. All of the stems, but especially the younger, unbranched ones, are covered with quarter inch long prickles. Larger trees are seldom met with, but when the tree is grown in full sun, it develops an oval outline with the accompanying stout-stemmed suckers standing at attention in its shadow.

The leaves are twice or thrice pinnately compound with individual leaflets two inches long. The entire compound leaf sometimes reaches five feet in length. The stout petiole half encircles the stout stems to keep it in place. In the fall the leaves are yellow to purple.

While the stout stems and large leaves are interesting, it is the flowers and subsequent fruit that get devil’s walking stick noticed in the woodlands. In mid summer it produces large, greenish-white panicles at the ends of the stout branches. They are composed of hundreds of ping-pong sized umbels and may be two feet across. The umbels are followed in the fall by dense clusters of purple, pea-sized berries that bow the stems over with their weight.

Despite its unique shape and interesting appearance, the tree has had little use in the medicines and folklore of Native Americans. The late W. C. Young, a former county agent who grew up in the Ouachita Mountains, once told me that as a child he heard the tree called “toothache tree.” A Frenchman, writing in his history of Louisiana in the late 1700’s mentions that the inner bark of the tree is pealed, and a pea-sized ball is clamped on the offending tooth. Reports out of Virginia suggest that the leaves are poisonous to cattle. Its wood is useless even as firewood.

Devil’s Walking Stick was popular in landscaping only during the Empire building period of the late 19th century. As the giants of the oil, railroad and banking industries began building their East coast homes after 1880, they launched a wholehearted attack on good and common sense. Wooden gingerbread on the eaves and cast iron mastiffs on the lawn were all the rage. And they showcased in their landscapes bizarre plants forms such as weeping mulberry, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick and Devil’s Walking Stick.

By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist – Ornamentals
Extension News – October 5, 2001

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing area.

Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa)

As you walk to the end of Marsh Road, look to the right for a dense thicket of Devil’s Walking Stick that exhibits large terminal clusters of creamy white flowers and large compound leaves. This relatively small tree gets its name from the club-shaped branches and the “vicious” prickles along the trunk, especially at the nodes. The prickles only form during the first year of growth, and as the tree matures the older stems gradually lose their prickles.

Leaves are doubly or triply compound and may be up to 5 feet in length, with individual leaflets 2-4 inches long. The purple to black fruits mature in late summer and early fall and are eaten and dispersed by birds; the foliage may be browsed by deer. Parts of the plant were used by Native Americans and early settlers for a variety of medicinal purposes. Today it is used as an ornamental plant by gardeners. Devil’s Walking Stick is native to the southeast, but has been successfully introduced to many other parts of the eastern U.S. It belongs to the plant family Araliaceae and is in the same genus as wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) which is also native to our area.

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