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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

 
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Monday - October 12, 2009

From: Lathrup Village, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Identity of Hercules Club from Lathrup Village MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Thought the shrub was Hercules Club but when looked at photo on line, totally different leaf. Mine has palmate leaf rounded at the tips, spines that are short but substantial. Branches arch somewhat and summer color is medium to dark green hinted towards blue. Had a client from Yorkshire who told me it was Hercules Club and used it as natural fence/thicket.

ANSWER:

Common names often make Mr. Smarty Plant cross-eyed. Both Aralia spinosa (devil's walkingstick) and Zanthoxylum clava-herculis (Hercules' club) are native to North America but neither is native to Michigan. Zanthoxylum clava-herculis, in addition to Hercules Club, has the common names of toothache tree and tingle tongue. It grows in Texas and to the East Coast as far north as Virginia. Aralia spinos, in addition to Devil's walking stick, has the common names of Prickly Ash and Prickly Elder. Sometimes it also referred to as the "toothache tree," but apparently does not share with Zanthoxylum clava-herculis  the trait of numbing the mouth when the leaves are chewed. It is native from Texas to Maine.

As you can see from the pictures below, from our Image Gallery, neither plant has palmate leaves. If the person who identified your plant as Hercules Club was from Yorkshire, England she may have been referring to yet another tree bearing that common name, growing in England but not native to North America, and therefore not in our Native Plant Database. We did search on Google on the common name, but the only results were the two listed above.  If you would like for us to try to identify your tree, go to the Mr. Smarty Plants Plant Identification page, and follow the instructions to submit pictures and information, and we will attempt to figure out what it is.


Aralia spinosa

Aralia spinosa

Zanthoxylum clava-herculis

Zanthoxylum clava-herculis

 

 

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