Monday, September 3, 2012
Tuesday's Trees- Aralia Spinosa
Walking through the woods this is not the tree you want to brush against, grab hold of, or use as your walking stick. The thorns along the bark keep animals from rubbing against them. Some trunks are covered more densely than others, but this is a key characteristic of the Devil's Walking Stick. It has other names, one of which is Hercules' Club. Can you imagine that as a weapon?
The Aralia spinosa can form a bit of a thicket or colony spreading by its roots. If you were walking through the woods it would not be good to get into the middle of this colony.
I have many of these trees in the lot next to me. A couple winters ago we worked on getting some of the front area cleared out. Many of the vines; smilax, muscadine grape, honeysuckle, and more honeysuckle were removed. I also pulled some of the Aralia spinosa. My rational was that there are plenty in the lots on either side of us.
A mature tree can be up to 20- 30 feet tall. The more mature trees have shallow furrowed bark with the spines barely showing. From the photos I would estimate a mature tree's diameter to be about 6- 8 inches. Life span is about 25- 30 years.
The tree can tolerate some shade, but according to one government site where control of this tree is important, a dense canopy is one way to weaken the growth. Fire is another method of control. Cutting the stems will only invigorate new growth from the roots. They can be found in upland woods, in moist soils where lands have been cleared.
The leaves are compound, bi-pinnate and sometimes tri-pinnate. Some of the larger leaves have over 100 leaflets and can measure up to four feet in length. This photo shows the wide branching of the leaves, all at the top of the stem. Each year's growth comes from the top of the stem. This one is about 6 feet tall and the stem is about an inch in diameter. It is not mature enough to bloom.
The ones in the lower lot are quite mature. As they are a thicket, I have not gone down into the base to see how tall they are. The summer show of blooms was amazing. This is a nectar plant for many butterflies and bees and other insects.
There was a lot of insect activity on these blooms -- lovely aren't they?
These blooms become gorgeous berries in the fall. These berries are food for birds. The berries are just starting to form. Some flowers are still visible.
Here is the beautiful berry, I love this color. All those blooms are starting to ripen.
Here is a close-up of said berries. The native Americans used many parts of this plant for medicinal treatments. The roots were used as a poultice for boils and swollen veins, internally as an emetic (to vomit), and as drops for sore eyes. Young roots are poisonous. There were all sorts of remedies for toothache, venereal disease, rheumatism, and other ailments. The U Mich site has a list.
The leaves in the fall are mainly yellow, though a couple websites said they can be red to orange to yellow. I will get better photos in the fall and update this page. Please come back.
References include Duke, UCONN, VA Tech, Wildflower ORG, Forestry Service, and NC State.
©Copyright 2012 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.