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TREES & Plants

Angelica tree

This unusual plant is hard to define.  It grows tall enough in the wild to be a tree, but is often a large shrub in landscapes.  Large clusters of tiny white flowers appear in late summer followed by small, black fruit.  Stems are thorny.  Angelica tree has become invasive in a few areas.

Botanical name: 
Aralia elata
All Common Names: 
Angelica tree, Japanese angelica tree
Family (English): 
Ginseng
Family (Botanic): 
Araliaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial shade (4-6 hrs indirect light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Occasional drought
  • Clay soil
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Thicket-forming
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
Time of Year: 
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
More Information: 

Size and Form

12 to 20 feet high and 6 to 10 feet wide; upright with a suckering habit

Tree & Plant Care

Remove excess suckers to control width of plant.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious disease or insect problems
Control of suckering is an ongoing maintenance issue.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Asia.

Bark color and texture 

Light gray stems with a number of prominent thorns.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Large (2 to 4 feet long), double compound leaves, with numerous leaflets
Leave dark green with no fall color
Small thorns also occur on the leaves.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small, white flowers in large, flattened clusters (up to 1 1/2 feet wide).
Flowers in mid to late summer.

Angelica tree (Aralia elata)Angelica tree (Aralia elata) fruitphoto: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Broad clusters of small dark purple berry-like fruit (drupes).

Cultivars and their differences 

Variegata    (Aralia elata ‘Variegata’ ):   This cultivar grows 10 to 15 feet high with an upright, colony-forming habit.  Growth rate is slow.  Unwanted suckers should be removed from this grafted plant.  This multi-stemmed tree-like shrub has wide, medium green leaves with irregular creamy-white leaf margins.