TREES & plants

Devil’s Walking Stick

This unusual U.S. native has a very exotic look, with large, compound leaves and late summer flowers.  Devil's walking stick has coarse, thorny stems.

Botanical name: 
Aralia spinosa
All Common Names: 
Devil’s walking stick, Hercules-club
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Illinois
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
  • Fast
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Dry sites
  • 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)
Shape or Form: 
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Thicket-forming
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
Time of Year: 
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
More Information: 

Size and Form

10 to 20 feet high (with potential to grow up to 30 feet) and 10 to 20 feet (or more) wide;  upright, thicket forming

Tree & Plant Care

Note that this plant can spread indefinitely; typically growing as understory or at wood edge in large thickets.
Prune out shoots to maintain the spread of the plant within desired size.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious disease or insect problems
Sucker growth can get out of control.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

This plant is pH adaptable as well as urban tolerant.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the southern United States up into the Midwest.

Devil's walking stick (Aralia spinosa)Devil's walking stick (Aralia spinosa)photo: John Hagstrom

Bark color and texture 

This plant is coarse-textured, lightly branched and has spiny stems.

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.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

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