Common Name: Devil’s Walking Stick
Botanical Name: Aralia spinosa
Form: upright vase, umbrella-like canopy
Plant Type: deciduous shrub or small tree
Mature Size: 10 to 25 feet x 6 to 10 feet, to 35’ if grown as a tree
Growth: slow to moderate
Origin: Missouri, United States
Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9
Foliage: green, compound, bipinnate to tripinnate, 2-5ft x 2-4ft, yellow to dull purple fall colour
Flowers: 1/8”, 5 petals, white, showy clusters 24 inches long in July to August
Fruit: round purple-black berries in clusters that ripen in late August to October
Stems: fat, sharp spines on its leaf stalks, stems and branches, horizontal leaf scars
Exposure: full sun to part shade
Soil: prefers moist, tolerates drought, clay soils and black walnut
Uses: large borders, attracts birds & wildlife, woodland, native gardens, dear resistant
Propagation: easily grown from seeds, suckers or root cuttings
Pruning: shorten branches in early spring or after blooming
Problems: thorns, suckers form colonies and also spread by seeds, handling roots and bark may cause allergic skin reaction
Comments: This striking Missouri native gets its two common names, Devil’s Walking Stick and Hercules Club, from the fat, sharp spines that grow along its branches, stems and leaf stalks. Their huge 2 to 4 foot lacy leaves are comprised of many small leaflets. They are perched atop unbranched club-like stems creating an umbrella type canopy. Their unique stems are ringed with furrowed leaf scars, which are quite noticeable.
In summer, tiny white flowers, which are held in large panicles sprout from the top of the stems. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators just love the flowers, whilst birds and wildlife love the fruit. Their fruit are very attractive; they look like black jewels adorning pink spherical crowns.
The Devil’s Walking Stick is very adaptable and is tolerant of pollution, soil and drought. Plant in a sheltered location to protect their large two-foot foliage. Since they sucker and seed themselves easily, give them lots of space.