DEVIL’S WALKING STICK (= HERCULES’ CLUB) IN NORTH NORWICH
Donald A. Windsor
Devil’s Walking Stick, also known as Hercules’ Club (Aralia spinosa), was found by Pete Bida on Thursday afternoon 9 November 2017 on our Bullthistle hike in the Whaupaunaucau State Forest in North Norwich, growing in a small grove along Trail 13. This member of the Araliacae (Ginseng) Family is native to southern New York State, down to Florida and west to Texas (Symonds).
It has been reported as vouchered (specimens in herbarium collection) from 11 counties in NYS on the New York Flora Association website. The closest are Delaware, Madison, and Oneida.
It grows as a tree or shrub and can attain a height of 35 feet. It is sold for horticultural purposes and the ones Pete found may be escapes.
Now that I have seen this plant I will be more alert for it in the future.
The flower display can be very impressive, as per a photo in Leopold’s book. It blooms in August, so I look forward to seeing it then.
Petrides lists (page 197) a close relative called “Devil’s Club” but in a separate genus and species, Oplopanax horridus, a northwestern plant with simple leaves and slender thorns. The leaf that Pete is holdinging the above photo has doubly compound leaves.
Leopold, Donald J. Aralia spinosa. In: Native Plants of the Northeast. Portland, OR: Timber Press. 2005. Pages 216-217.
New York Flora Association (NYFA) www.nyflora.org
Petrides, George A. Aralia spinosa Hercules-Club. In: A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs. 2nd Edition. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. 1972. Pages 128, 152-153.
Symonds, George W.D. ; Merwin, A.W. Hercules’ Club. In: The Shrub Identification Book. New York, NY: William Morrow & Co. 1963. Main Plates 92-94, Pages 258-260.