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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

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Friday - April 17, 2009

From: Beach Lake, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Plant identification of tall stalk with many thorns
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Dear Mr. Smarty Pants: After we raked all the leaves, I found three or four plants on my property that are thin tall stalks with many thorns. Leaves are just growing, so I cannot describe them. They are between two to three feet tall. Are they invasive? I want to move them closer to our deck to keep the deer away. Thanks.


From your description I think the most likely suspect is Aralia spinosa (devil's walkingstick). Here are more photos from the USDA, Missouri Plants, and from Vanderbilt University. It is listed in the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health database at Invasive.org.

Another possibility is that it is one of the greenbriers such as Smilax tamnoides (bristly greenbrier)Smilax glauca (cat greenbrier) or Smilax rotundifolia (roundleaf greenbrier)

If one of these isn't your plant, please take photos and send them to us and we will do our best to identify it.  For instructions on how to submit photos please visit Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page.

Aralia spinosa




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