Aralia Spinosa-a little heard of or talked about native.........

Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)May 8, 2008

I'm wondering why I don't see it mentioned more, or on more trade lists of folks who are into natives. Is it maybe thought of as a thug or something? Disliked due to the thorns? Considered too invasive?

I have it in my front yard woods, and have only seen it bloom one time where the shade was quite dappled. A neighbor had a plant just appear (and bloom) in her fence row in partial shade, and we were both in awe at the beautiful huge bloom that was about 18" across, if I remember correctly.

Does anyone else have it and love it?

Have it and hate it? I hated it until I read a bit about it and saw it in bloom...and before I developed an appreciation for natives.

I'd love to hear more about it. Sometime in my spare (?) time, I plan to more a couple of mine, in the hopes of getting to see them bloom regularly each year.


Here is a link that might be useful: Aralia Spinosa

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butterflygal21797(z7 MD)

So far, I love it, although it does worry me at times. I have it planted in a low spot in my back yard, where it seems very happy. I've had it there about 5 years or so, and it has bloomed well for me the last few years. The blooms are spectactular, although you really have to look up to see them as mine blooms only at the topmost branches, which are over 10 ft. tall.

I have heard that it can be invasive. That's my only worry. It does send up shoots up to several feet away from the original clump, but so far I've just been mowing them (it is planted by itself in the middle of lawn) and that seems to keep it in check. Another good point is that it's one of the few things I've planted in that area that the deer haven't killed or severely damaged.

Overall, I'd probably give aralia spinosa a thumbs up, with a few qualifications. It's definitely not a plant you'd want to put in a manicured garden bed, but as an island specimen, it's done well for me, and I imagine it would do well in a naturalized, wild setting. I've also heard that it makes a good, safe (due to its thorniness) nest site for many birds, including cardinals (though my backyard birds have never used it -- it may not be thick enough yet).

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 11:53AM
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Birds love it. It's also known as Devil's Walking Stick and by some other common names.
There is a very similar looking non-native aralia elata. I have either the native or the non-native, I can't tell them apart. Whichever one I have grows and spreads like a weed but it is kinda pretty when the berries are on it. Looking down onto a canopy of this tree when in bloom (say from the top of a hill looking down into a valley of devil's walking stick) it is very attractive. I haven't noticed any evidence of deer or other animals eating the actual trees or leaves. The birds like the berries.

Here is a link that might be useful: Devil's Walking Stick wicki article

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 2:01PM
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I thought I'd heard that Aralia spinosa has the largest leaf of all the US natives. Indeed this linked page says that it gets up to 5 feet long!

Leaves: Alternate, bi- or tri-pinnately compound, up to 5 feet long

It also says that it forms thickets. I don't have it, but given my deer problem, perhaps I should add it!

Here is a link that might be useful: Aralia spinosa

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 2:22PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)


Where are you located? The map at the link in my OP shows its natural range.

My Indiana Wildflower Field Guide says it is found in the southern part of my state (Indiana), but the map shows the whole state (as they don't show partial state coverage.)

It also says that it forms thickets Mine was in the front yard woods when I moved here 20+ years ago. There's not much sign of a thicket forming, but my guess is that it is just too shady for it to really thrive. It does send up suckers though, but it just never seems to get any thicker...thank goodness.

The other day I was out there pulling up some trumpet vines my neighbor wanted. I was being none too careful since there were lots and lots of the trumpets of various sizes.

OUCH! I grabbed and attempted to pull a devil's walking stick, before the pain registered, as they look very similar when they are about 12 inches tall.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 2:54PM
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I am in Westchester County, New York which is a suburban county immediately north of New York City.
My aralias seem to grow in sun and shade and do make thickets. I have so many that if one is shading out something more rare and valuable I don't mind cutting it down. The wood is so week and soft that many of them can be cut down with loppers. I am very suspicious of any plant that does well where I garden but there are some natives that do spread there so I can't rule out having the native aralia.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 5:34PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Devil's walking stick is an excellent native plant. It obviously isn't for everyone, or everywhere, as stated astutely above. It does serve a lot of purposes well.

It tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. I work and manage public lands in Louisville, KY. Aralia spinosa occurs on acid and alkaline soils here, as well as on high drier ground and in low floodplain conditions. Equally tolerant of full sun or closed canopy shade (though flowering poorly there), Devil's walking stick persists on the compacted clay of a dam face and in fertile former farm fields.

As far as forming thickets - it is a runner and colonizer, just like many of the sumacs. As far as form, well, gaunt about sums up the winter architecture. For those of you who wish for tropicality in northern climes, though, you can't get much better than the hugely compound (and THORNY) foliage.

The descriptions of the big flowerhead don't do it justice - it must be seen to be fully appreciated. Additionally, the purple fruit AND the reddish persistent pedicels are pulchritudinous! OK, that was bad. They are pretty...

Fall color can be topnotch, too. Reds, yellows, oranges, and purples will occur all amongst a crowd of Aralia. For you who now must have one - these are so easy to make more of by division, it's not even funny. As long as you get some of the root system, you will have the plant.

Functional plants are what we often crave for the properties we work with. This plant is not only beautiful over many seasons, but it also stops wayward mountain bikers and rogue trail users dead in their tracks (in a matter of speaking).

If I was trying to think of a plant to fill a spot surrounded by pavement (imagine that strip of soil between a foundation wall and driveway), one could do worse than let Devil's walking stick fill the bill.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 8:17PM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I'll second what Viburnumvalley wrote about starting your own thicket of Aralia spinosa - all you have to do is pull up a small stem or two from an existing thicket, taking at least a few roots along with it, or even just the tissue along the stem where roots emerged before you pulled it. If you get only a few roots - and you probably will if you just yank one out of the ground - remove most of the leaves from the stem, leaving only a few small or partial leaves, or perhaps no leaves, then plant it where you want it, water, and keep the soil moist for a month or two. Eventually the stem will grow new roots and new leaves, and you've got a plant. I've done this a few times, sometimes failing to keep the soil consistently moist, and have had perhaps 75% success. If I was planting this again, I'd pull a bunch of stems and plant more than I think I want. This is a rather gaunt plant that looks better with multiple stems, so plant 4 where you want one, and if your success is the same as mine you have a very good chance that at least one will take root, and probably you'll end up with two or three which will make an attractive stand of Aralia.

now is a good time of year to transplant aralia spinosa because there should be small (perhaps 1 or 2 foot), new shoots emerging from the ground that lend themselves to transplanting. I think older shoots would work too, but they're larger and harder to handle. If you see this plant along a roadside, powerline, or edge you may be able to find new shoots emerging from the ground in a place where they will eventually be cut, mowed, or sprayed. These are good candidates for transplanting without having any impact at all on the parent clump of plants. Of course I wouldn't worry too much about pulling up a few shoots from any healthy clump - a healthy plant produces enough new growth that it can easily afford to lose a few shoots. Wear thick gloves.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 9:25AM
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