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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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Saturday - July 28, 2012

From: Lakeland, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a plant that looks like a suculent tree with a canopy like an umbrella. It grows every summer & is no more than 5 ft tall. It has tiny spines on it's trunk, which has white spots on it. the entire tree is a bright medium green color.the leaves look almost folded upward at the sides & there are 4 symetrical branches with leaves growing from the base all the way up. It grows next to my pond but is not submerged in any way. I have 3 of them- it honestly looks like a Dr. Suess tree. Do you have any idea what this is? I will send you a picture of it if you would like.

ANSWER:

The closest I can come to a plant that meets your description is Aralia spinosa (Devil's walkingstick).  Here are more photos from Duke University, Floridata and Missouri Plants.  These plants can grow to 20 feet, however.  Your question seems to indicate that yours disappear after the summer is gone.  Do you cut them down or do they die?

There is an African plant, Anchomanes dalzielii, that sounds a bit like your plant.   Here are photos.  However, I could not find any information about whether this plant has been found growing in Florida.

If neither of these happen to be the plant you have growing in your garden, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Devil's walking stick
Aralia spinosa

Devil's walking stick
Aralia spinosa

Devil's walking stick
Aralia spinosa

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