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August Flora Spotlight:
Devil's Walking Stick

Devilís Walking Stick
Aralia spinosa

Readers of this monthly spotlight are used to learning about beautiful, sometimes delicate flowering plants. This month we would like to bring your attention an unusual shrub that has all the things we look for in a plant Ė showy flowers, purple fruits, and great fall color and winter interest. 

Common names include Devilís walking stick, Hercules club, Angelica tree, Prickly ash and Toothache tree. One-foot-wide flower clusters sit atop the foliage in summer providing nectar to butterflies, bees and other insects. They transform into juicy purple fruits that birds and other wildlife find tasty and nutritious. Dark blue-green compound leaves offer tropical effect before turning yellow and purple in autumn. During winter, a circle of thorn-covered stems is as magical as an outdoor sculpture.

Aralia spinosa is a slow growing shrub or small tree in the Ginseng family that can be grown in full sun or part shade. It tolerates a variety of soils from sandy to clay, as long as they are moist and well drained. It prefers open woodlands, clearings and forest edges. 

Both Native Americans and early settlers used the bark, roots and berries for medicinal purposes. The berries, made into a tincture, have been found useful in treating toothache pain and rheumatism. A poultice of roots has been applied to boils, skin eruptions, varicose veins, swelling and old sores. Along the way, parts of this plant have been made into concoctions to treat eye problems, sore throats, snakebite and cholera. 
For something different in your garden, plant Aralia spinosa.

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