Prickly-ash is a tall, colony-forming small tree or large shrub reaching 15 to 25 feet tall and wide. Twigs and stems are covered in 1/2 inch prickles making it difficult to use in the landscape. In spite of its common name, it is not related to Ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) of the Olive family. Rarely found in the nursery trade.
"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Small tree (15-25 feet),
- Compact tree (10-15 feet),
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7
- Moist, well-drained soil,
- Wet soil
- Dry sites,
- Occasional drought,
- Wet sites,
- Occasional flooding,
- Alkaline soil,
- Clay soil
Season of Interest:
- Late summer
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size & Form
A large colony forming shrub to small tree reaching 15 to 25 feet tall and wide.
Tree & Plant Care
Prefers full or partial sun and moist to dry soils. This shrub can adapt to light shade, but it may fail to produce flowers and fruit.
Different types of soil are tolerated, including clay-loam, and rocky material.
Difficult to find in the nursery trade.
Disease, pests, and problems
No serious pests or diseases.
Disease, pests, and problem resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Native geographic location and habitat
Forms thickets in moist wood edges and areas and along stream banks.
In drier sites it is located on rocky slopes.
Bark color and texture
Twigs are brown and smooth, while young shoots are light green and nearly glabrous to pubescent.
Pairs of stout prickles up to 1/3" long are scattered along the branches, twigs and shoots; these spines are somewhat flattened and curved.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, dark green, compound leaves reach about 6-12 inches long and develop along the twigs and young shoots.
Leaflets are finely toothed with a yellow gland between each tooth.
Small prickles run along the rachis (stalk) and petiole.
Crushed leaves smell like citrus.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Dioecious. Male and female flowers on separate plants.
Yellowish-green flowers appear before the leaves in clusters along last years twigs.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruit is a red, small, 2-valved capsule that splits down the middle to reveal a shiny black seed.