Nov 10 2009

Budding Opportunities

Published by at 7:11 am under Trees

Devil's Walking Stick bud (photo by Dianne Machesney)I thought I’d missed my chance when I didn’t write about this plant on Halloween – more on that later – but Chuck Tague’s recent blog on tree buds gives me the perfect opportunity to discuss this scary looking plant.

Compared to the beautiful twigs Chuck photographed this one looks positively wicked.  So what is it?  Here are some hints.

  1. This bud is as fat as your thumb and covered in thorns.
  2. It grows on a tree that’s only 5 to 15 feet tall.
  3. The trunk is very thorny too and only 1 to 4 inches in diameter.
  4. The bud will sprout very large twice- or thrice-compound leaves that are 2 to 4 feet long!
  5. The flower is one huge flat-topped cluster that blooms July to September.
  6. Its fleshy, black fruit droops from the top of the tree.  The berries are such good food for birds that when you find a stand of these trees in autumn you’ll find a flock of robins, too.
  7. The name of this tree evokes Halloween.

And it is… (drum roll) … Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa), also called Hercules-club.  The trunk is so narrow it resembles a walking stick but only the Devil would dare grasp it.

Want to look at pretty buds now?  Check out This Bud’s for You.

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Budding Opportunities”

  1. Marcy Con 10 Nov 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I have several new starts of these in the yard…they don’t transplant well, but thanks to the birds they are growing…the berries are ripe AFTER the elderberries are done. I had a friend pick these thinking they were elderberries (wanted to make jelly), even though they are bigger in size. Thankfully, I was past the place where she picked them and told her not to eat them…not sure if they are poison for humans, but they are a magnet for critters. This is one plant you do not grab if you slip down the hill, where mine are growing under the power line. The leaves are awesome…esp when they fall in one huge section like a branch.
    This one plant you know at any time of year.

    There is another kind that is invasive found in the Eastern part of PA…Aralia elata, which is non-native with smaller thorns…

  2. Dianne Machesneyon 18 Nov 2009 at 4:07 pm

    According to “Poisonous Plants of PA” published by the PA Dept of Agriculture,

    “The fruit of all species of Aralia are poison when eaten raw BUT are infrequently cooked as jelly, which is reported edible.”

    I’d be too chicken to try it, but if your friends does, I’d be curious to know what they taste like.

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