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Devil’s walking stick

Flowers of 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

Native Locale:

  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • medium tree (25-40 feet),
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • midsummer,
  • late summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Thicket-forming,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate,
  • Fast

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.
Tolerant of most sites, best in full sun to light shade under tall trees.

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.
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

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.
Leaves 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).

Location of Aralia spinosa (Devil’s walking stick) at the Arboretum