Other common names for this plant are Prickly Ash, prickly Elder, Angelica Tree, Pigeon Tree, and Shotbush. This plant is actually in the Araliaceae or Ginseng family.
The Cherokee used the Devil’s Walking Stick in many different ways. The crushed roots were used as a salve for sores. An infusion of the roots was used to promote vomiting. It should be noted that the Cherokee used vomiting as a way of cleansing the body. A tea was also made from the roots and leaves to treat rheumatism. A tea was administrated to promote sweating to break a fever. Root sap was used as a wash for paralysis and leaves were chewed for toothaches. Often when the Cherokee applied medicine to the body they would scratch the skin to let the medicine have better penetration. They often would use the thorns of the Devil’s Walking Stick for this purpose.
You may be wondering how this plant got it’s name. Well if you work around this plant, like pruning, you will want to wear the heaviest glove you own. The thorns on the plant are razor sharp and long. They are about 1/2 inch long which could go through the depth of your hand if you held it tight in your palm. In other words, it is like reaching our and shaking hands with the devil.
The above pictures were taken this week in our personal garden. This is the first year that the Devil’s Walking Stick has bloomed for us. It was a pleasant surprise to see the blooms since we have had this plant for six or seven years. This plant can get 10 to 20 feet tall. It blooms during July and August with cream colored blossoms. It like full sun to part shade with well drained soil. This plant can sucker to form colonies so you would need to contain it size in your garden. The blooms will be followed by clusters of black drupes. These are black fruits shaped more like a pear but small which will attract a lot of birds in the fall.