Devil's Walking Stick

OK, I'm a geek. I admit it. So, as a geek, as I was browsing through a tree field guide- I was struck by the coolness factor of a tree with the common name of Devil's Walking Stick. The photos in the field guide plainly displayed why the tree is known as the Devil's Walking Stick- the trunk of this tree has many tough and woody thorns that completely encircle it at various intervals. Of course I have been in search of this tree ever since then so that I could make a walking stick from one and then tell folks that I was walking with a Devil's Walking Stick. Yep, I'm a geek alright.

Recently, as my friends and I hiked around Desoto State Park, which is located near Ft. Payne, Alabama, we noticed several of these trees. Most of the trees that we found were no larger than 8 feet, however the Devil's Walking Stick generally reaches a height of about 20 feet.

Other than the name- this tree also has other cool features. Did you know that this tree has the largest leaves of any tree in North America? (source) Before I had discovered fact about this tree, I had thought that the aptly named Big Leaf Magnolia held the honor. The "leaves" of the Devil's Walking Stick are comprised of many compound leaflets- the entire leaf arrangement can stretch to three feet in length by 2 feet in width.

Another cool fact- the Devil's Walkingstick is a member of the Ginseng family.


The scientific name of the Devil's Walkingstick is Aralia spinosa. It is aptly named- the translation for "spinosa" is "with spines." The helpful nature website, Flordata, lists many good uses for the Devil's Walkingstick- they note that this plant can be planted beneath windows to deter burglars or it can be planted in place of a barbed wire fence as a living fence. And to quote their opinion of the thorns of this plant- "This is one of the most viciously thorny things in the vegetable kingdom!" (source)

The Devil's Walkingstick has also been documented for its uses as a folk medicine- however- it is also listed as being a plant with some toxicity. The Floridata website reports that the berries are mildly toxic if eaten. Skin contact with the bark and/or roots has also been reported to cause some mild skin irritation.

4 comments:

Eve said...

Well I for one am happy your a Geek Daniel...we're all smarter because of it!

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

We are all glad you're on the case, Daniel. Great reporting!

Anonymous said...

i cut down are tree had a 4"stem .let dry over the summer . and made table center pieces . Just to find out the cats go crazy over these center pieces and play with them as if they were cat nip WHY DO YOU KNOW

Anonymous said...

They are called the Devil's Walking Stick because, you are walking in the woods, you hit rough terrain, you reach out for a nearby tree to balance yourself, OH S%#@!! I found out that way, it was dim under the canopy, I didn't see the thorns, boy howdy, I sure felt them!! Linda learned the hard way!