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SPECIES:  Aralia spinosa
Creative Commons image by David Stephens,



SPECIES: Aralia spinosa
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Sullivan, Janet. 1992. Aralia spinosa. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION: ARASPI SYNONYMS: NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE: ARSP2 COMMON NAMES: devil's walkingstick prickly ash Hercules club angelica tree prickly elder pick tree toothache tree shotbush TAXONOMY: The scientific name of devil's walkingstick is Aralia spinosa L. (Araliaceae) [7,8,24]. LIFE FORM: Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Aralia spinosa
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Devil's walkingstick is found naturally occurring in eastern North America from New York and Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to southwestern Iowa and western Texas.  It has escaped from cultivation in New England to southern Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, and western Europe [4,19,33].
Distribution of devil's walkingstick. 1977 USDA, Forest Service map digitized by Thompson and others [39].
   FRES12  Longleaf - slash pine
   FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES15  Oak - hickory
   FRES16  Oak - gum - cypress
   FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch

     AL  AR  CT  DE  FL  GA  IL  IN  KY  LA
     MD  MA  MI  MO  MS  NC  NJ  NY  OH  OK
     ON  OR  PA  RI  SC  TN  TX  VA  WA  WV

    1  Northern Pacific Border
    2  Cascade Mountains
    5  Columbia Plateau

   K089  Black Belt
   K100  Oak - hickory forest
   K101  Elm - ash forest
   K102  Beech - maple forest
   K103  Mixed mesophytic forest
   K104  Appalachian oak forest
   K106  Northern hardwoods
   K107  Northern hardwoods - fir forest
   K108  Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
   K109  Transition between K104 and K106
   K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest
   K113  Southern floodplain forest
   K114  Pocosin

    16  Aspen
    17  Pin cherry
    18  Paper birch
    19  Gray birch - red maple
    24  Hemlock - yellow birch
    25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
    26  Sugar maple - basswood
    27  Sugar maple
    28  Black cherry - maple
    40  Post oak - blackjack oak
    44  Chestnut oak
    52  White oak - black oak - northern red oak
    57  Yellow-poplar
    59  Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
    60  Beech - sugar maple
    63  Cottonwood
    65  Pin oak - sweetgum
    75  Shortleaf pine
    76  Shortleaf pine - oak
    80  Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
    81  Loblolly pine
    82  Loblolly pine - hardwood
    83  Longleaf pine - slash pine
    87  Sweet gum - yellow-poplar
   108  Red maple
   109  Hawthorn




SPECIES: Aralia spinosa
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Insects harvest pollen and nectar from the flowers of devil's walkingstick [8].  The fruits are used as food by many birds and other frugivores, including black bear [7,8,14,15].  Van Dersal reported that deer use devil's walkingstick as browse [32].  White [37] did not observe any deer browsing of young ramets but did observe stem damage due to antler rubbing. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES: Devil's walkingstick bark, roots, and berries have been used for medicinal purposes, both by Native Americans and European settlers.  It is planted as an ornamental in North America and Europe [33]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Control:  Devil's walkingstick is killed by aerosol applications of glyphosate at rates of 1.50 to 2.25 pounds per acre (0.56-2.52 kg/ha) applied three times at 2-week intervals from mid-August to mid-September [35].  Korostoff [17] reported that devil's walkingstick is controlled by cutting and application of herbicide to the stump.  The most effective treatment reported by Loftis [20] is injection of stems larger than 2 inches in diameter with herbicide; basal sprays were ineffective on his study sites. Establishment:  Devil's walkingstick populations are maintained only on disturbed sites.  When the overstory cover becomes thick enough, devil's walkingstick declines.  Defoliation by gypsy moth infestation in Pennsylvania and Maryland resulted in an increase in stems per acre of devil's walkingstick, due both to injury of devil's walkingstick ramets and to release by removal of overstory [12].  Mowing or cutting of stems results in vigorous sprouting of new ramets from underground rhizomes and is recommended for maintenance of vigorous stands [14,15]. Fire also produces appropriate disturbances and stem damage, and could be used to maintain devil's walkingstick stands [36].


SPECIES: Aralia spinosa
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Devil's walkingstick is a spiny, few-branched, flat-topped tree or shrub 25 to 35 feet (7-10 m) tall.  It grows from extensive rhizomes [4,24,33,36,37].  The stems tend to remain unbranched until the first terminal inflorescences are produced at an average age of 3.5 years. There are abundant prickles on the stems and leaves of first-year ramets [13,36,37].
Devil's walkingstick stem. Creative Commons image by Chris Evans, University of Illinois,


Devil's walkingstick perennates by rhizomes, producing ramets.  Leaves
may be killed by frost in winter; severe frost can kill stems back to
ground level [13].  Flowers are pollinated by insects, mostly bees.
Seeds are dispersed by frugivores, and germination is in the spring
following stratification [8,32,33].  Artificial propagation can be
achieved through root cuttings [32].

Devil's walkingstick is found in upland and low woods, pocosins, and
savannahs [24].  It prefers rich moist soils and is found at edges of
streams, and in thickets and shrub bays [13,33].  Some of the plant
species associated with devil's walkingstick include black cherry
(Prunus serotina), eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), tree
sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum), red maple (Acer rubrum var trilobum),
American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), common persimmon (Diospyros
virginiana), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Carolina jessamine
(Gelsemium sempervirens), Bignonia capreolata, St. Andrew's cross
(Ascyrum hypericoides), common sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria),
Vaccinium spp., and passionflower (Passiflora lutea) [23].  Associates
on a Texas shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata)/white oak (Quercus alba)
community include Meliz azedarach, hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli), and
flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) [36].

Devil's walkingstick is found in Louisiana in openings in upland
hardwoods, with plant associates including sassafras, American holly
(Ilex opaca), flowering dogwood, sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum),
serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), common persimmon, Vaccinium spp., grape
(Vitis spp.), eastern hophornbeam, Viburnum spp., and Carolina buckthorn
(Rhamnus caroliniana).  It is also found on gullied land and on moist
bottomlands with plant associates including American sycamore (Platanus
occidentalis) and green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) [28].

Devil's walkingstick is found in southern Appalachian forests in
openings from 8,042 square feet to 10,763 square feet (750-1,000 sq m),
with the frequency of occurrence dropping off with larger gaps; it is
not found in undisturbed understory [26].

Devil's walkingstick is shade intolerant [31].  In a study of
succession in Illinois oak (Quercus velutina) woodlands , Shotola [27]
reported that a population of devil's walkingstick (documented in 1967)
decreased as a population of sugar maple (Acer saccarum) increased; by
1983, no individuals were found.  The assumption is that the increased
canopy coverage was unfavorable to devil's walkingstick.  Devil's
walkingstick is also found in abundance in clearcuts, but not in
adjacent intact pine plantations in Ohio.  The population on this site
increased in the third and fourth years after the clearcut.  There is
concern that the presence of devil's walkingstick on these sites may
delay subsequent establishment of hardwood species [1].

Devil's walkingstick flowers in July and August, setting fruit
that ripens from September to October [33].


SPECIES: Aralia spinosa
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: NO-ENTRY FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY:    Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker    Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)    Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)    Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Aralia spinosa
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Removal of aboveground portions of stems by means other than fire is reported to result in vigorous resprouting of new ramets.  It is reasonable to assume, although not documented, that fire death of aboveground stems would have the same result [36].  Periodic fires create openings in forest canopies that allow devil's walkingstick to establish and maintain populations [16]. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Since populations of devil's walkingstick are maintained only on disturbed areas, periodic fires that create disturbed areas and forest openings would result in seral sites that could include devil's walkingstick [15,16].

References for species: Aralia spinosa

1. Artigas, Francisco J.; Boerner, Ralph E. J. 1989. Advance regeneration and seed banking of woody plants in Ohio pine plantations: implications for landscape change. Landscape Ecology. 2(3): 139-150. [13633]
2. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]
3. Blair, Robert M.; Brunett, Louis E. 1976. Phytosociological changes after timber harvest in a southern pine ecosystem. Ecology. 57: 18-32. [9646]
4. Blum, Barton M. 1974. Aralia L. aralia. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 220-222. [7459]
5. Dale, J. L. 1979. Mycoplasmalike organism observed in Aralia spinosa trees. Plant Disease Reporter. 63(6): 472-474. [20744]
6. Davidar, Priya; Morton, Eugene S. 1986. The relationship between fruit crop sizes and fruit removal rates by birds. Ecology. 67(1): 262-265. [20743]
7. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, exclusive of lower peninsular Florida. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 409 p. [12906]
8. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
9. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
10. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]
11. Gibson, David J.; Collins, Scott L.; Good, Ralph E. 1988. Ecosystem fragmentation of oak-pine forest in the New Jersey pinelands. Forest Ecology and Management. 25: 105-122. [8635]
12. Hix, David M.; Fosbroke, David E.; Hicks, Ray R., Jr.; Gottschalk, Kurt W. 1991. Development of regeneration following gypsy moth defoliation of Appalachian Plateau and Ridge & Valley hardwood stands. In: McCormick, Larry H.; Gottschalk, Kurt W., eds. Proceedings, 8th central hardwood forest conference; 1991 March 4-6; University Park, PA. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-148. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 347-359. [15323]
13. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
14. Hellgren, Eric C.; Vaughan, Michael R.; Stauffer, Dean F. 1991. Macrohabitat use by black bears in a southeastern wetland. Journal of Wildlife Management. 55(3): 442-448. [15420]
15. Hellgren, Eric C.; Vaughan, Michael R. 1988. Seasonal food habits of black bears in Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia - North Carolina. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 42: 295-305. [19221]
16. Johnson, A. Sydney; Hillestad, Hilburn O.; Shanholtzer, Sheryl Fanning; Shanholtzer, G. Frederick. 1974. An ecological survey of the coastal region of Georgia. Scientific Monograph Series No 3, NPS 116. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. 233 p. [16102]
17. Korostoff, Neil P. 1990. Urban ecosystem restoration: the case of the forested urban stream valley park. In: Hughes, H. Glenn; Bonnicksen, Thomas M., eds. Restoration '89: the new management challenge: Proceedings, 1st annual meeting of the Society for Ecological Restoration; 1989 January 16-20; Oakland, CA. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Society for Ecological Restoration: 110-124. [14692]
18. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]
19. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]
20. Loftis, David L. 1978. Preharvest herbicide control of undesirable vegetation in southern Appalachian hardwoods. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 2(2): 51-54. [10632]
21. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496]
22. Platt, William J.; Schwartz, Mark W. 1990. Temperate hardwood forests. In: Myers, Ronald L.; Ewel, John J., eds. Ecosystems of Florida. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Press: 194-229. [17390]
23. Quarterman, Elsie; Keever, Catherine. 1962. Southern mixed hardwood forest: climax in the southeastern coastal plain, U.S.A. Ecological Monographs. 32: 167-185. [10801]
24. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606]
25. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
26. Runkle, James Reade. 1982. Patterns of disturbance in some old-growth mesic forests of eastern North American. Ecology. 63(5): 1533-1546. [9261]
27. Shotola, Steven J.; Weaver, G. T.; Robertson, P. A.; Ashby, W. C. 1992. Sugar maple invasion of an old-growth oak-hickory forest in southwestern Illinois. The American Midland Naturalist. 127(1): 125-138. [17581]
28. Smalley, Glendon W. 1991. Classification and evaluation of forest sites on the Natchez Trace State Forest, State Resort Park, & Wildlife Management Area in w. Tennessee. SO-85. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 73 p. [17981]
29. Smith, Edwin B. 1982. Juvenile and adult leaflet phases in Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae). SIDA. 9(4): 330-332. [19223]
30. Steinbeck, Klaus; Dougherty, Phillip M.; Fitzgerald, Judith A. 1991. Growth of pine-hardwood mixtures on two upland sites in the Georgia piedmont: initial crown area relationships. In: Coleman, Sandra S.; Neary, Daniel G., compilers. Proceedings, 6th biennial sothern silvicultural research conference: Volume 2; 1990 October 30 - November 1; Memphis, TN. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-70. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 607-615. [17504]
31. Stevens, George C.; Perkins, Anjeanette L. 1992. The branching habits and life history of woody plants. The American Naturalist. 139(2): 267-275. [17983]
32. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
33. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
34. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573]
35. Wendel, G. W.; Kochenderfer, J. N. 1982. Glyphosate controls hardwoods in West Virginia. Res. Pap. NE-497. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 7 p. [9869]
36. White, Peter S. 1984. The architecture of devil's walking stick, Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae). Journal of the Arnold Arboretum. 65: 403-418. [19224]
37. White, Peter S. 1988. Prickle distribution in Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae). American Journal of Botany. 75(2): 282-285. [19222]
38. Wilson, Robert E. 1989. The vegetation of a pine-oak forest in Franklin County, Texas, and its comparison with a similar forest in Lamar County, Texas. Texas Journal of Science. 41(2): 167-176. [8771]
39. Thompson, Robert S.; Anderson, Katherine H.; Bartlein, Patrick J. 1999. Digital representations of tree species range maps from "Atlas of United States trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. (and other publications). In: Atlas of relations between climatic parameters and distributions of important trees and shrubs in North America. Denver, CO: U.S. Geological Survey, Information Services (Producer). On file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; FEIS files. [92575]

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