Improvement status: Wild
Seeds per packet: ~80
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
Also called angelica tree, this devil's walkingstick (which is a name used for a few other thorny plants) is a southeast & mid-Atlantic native perennial in the ginseng family. The 6 to 20 foot tall plants have a distinctly tropical look, creating a canopy with their large compound leaves and beautiful riot of white-yellow flowers, followed by a lovely late-summer/fall display with their sprays of purple berries. Like their lookalike Asian counterpart (called tara-no-ki in Japan, and dureup-namu in Korea), the young shoots and leaves are eaten as a delicacy in the spring or pickled for future use (see photo). Before the leaves become spiny, they can be chopped up and used as a potherb. The berries are edible too (in moderation), and featured in a variety of traditional Haudenosaunee recipes. That Asian relative (Aralia elata) has become quite widespread in the northeastern US, bringing with it concerns of displacing native species including its cousin.
During the American Civil War, this plant was used as a field medicine, and early settlers are said to have used it for toothaches. Recent studies that have found that extracts of the plant showed antimicrobial activity against multi-drug-resistant bacteria associated with wound infections, which could prove very important as more and more bacteria mutate and develop resistances to our current collection of antibiotics (a problem made even worse by the fact that antibiotics are notoriously unprofitable for pharmaceutical companies, so they have little incentive to invest in research and development).
Devil's walkingstick gets its name from the long and straight stems which are lined with thorny spikes. This is not a plant you want to grab for support when you're sliding down a slope (take it from me!). But it's a lovely edible and medicinal native perennial that should be planted much more widely.
Our seeds come from Pennsylvania via Sheffield's Seed Company in Locke, NY.
GROWING TIPS: Cold stratify seeds for 90 days, then soak for 24 hours and sow 1/8" deep. Prefers a good deep loam and moist soil. Generally found in at least semi-shady and sheltered positions.