Thursday, June 28, 2012

Plant Profile: Devil’s Walking Stick, Aralia Spinosa

Figure 1. Aralia spinosa, devil's walking stick;
note the compound leaves and terminal flower
arrangement. Photo credit: Gil Nelson.
By Nnamdi Ofodile

This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Botany students at Jacksonville University.

Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Apiales
Family: Araliaceae
Genus: Aralia
Specific epithet: spinosa

Description
Aralia spinosa, Devil’s walking stick, is the only Aralia species in Florida (Figure 1) and is an aromatic spiny shrub/small tree of the Ginseng or Araliaceae family. You can find this plant in the northern and central
counties of the state, and in moist soils that are partially shaded by a canopy, where it typically grows between 12 and 15 feet high.

Figure 2. A. spinosa with notable prickles.
Photo credit: Shirley Denton.
Figure 3. Drupes of devil's walking stick.
Photo credit: Virginia Ducey.
Lean against the thin trunk of Devil's walking stick and you'll quickly figure out where the plant's name comes from. The stems are armed up and down with exceptionally sharp spines, hence spinosa (Figure 2). To add insult to injury, the petioles and surfaces of the pinnately-compound leaves, which can be 3 feet long and equally wide, are covered in pointed prickles. The flowers are creamy white and have a lemony scent. Undeterred by the prickles, pollinators such as bees, butterflies visit the flowers for the nectar (Figure 1). The fruit, a purplish-black berry-like drupe, is eaten by birds during autumn months (Figure 3).

Uses

As with other members of the Ginseng family, this species has medicinal properties. It has been used to treat tooth aches, fever, and snakebites, among other ailments. In the Victorian era, A. spinosa was planted as a novelty for its tropical foliage and prickly stems.

References
http://www.floridata.com/ref/a/aral_spi.cfm
http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ARSP2
• Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2008. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants (http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/). [S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa.

Image Sources
Figure 1. http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Photo.aspx?id=104
Figure 2. http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Photo.aspx?id=4964
Figure 3. http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Photo.aspx?id=3245

4 comments:

Conry Lavis said...

Hi,
I just bought a home in southwest florida and it has a 8X16 area on the right of the walkway. I would also like something to the left in front of the house as well. Also, we would like to put some sort of small shrub along the backside of the house where the screen enclosure is.

Landscape Designer VA

Ginny Stibolt said...

The very large triply pinnate leaves of this plant are attached directly to the stem and when they drop in the fall or winter, only the single prickly stem is left standing. Use in the landscape wherethis willnot be a problem.

The Jolly Bloggers said...

Hi Conry. Are you asking for plant suggestions? You might consider going to http://www.plantrealflorida.org/ and finding out what is native to the area in which your home is located, or using the plant selector tool at http://www.fnps.org/plants.

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