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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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Thursday - October 03, 2013

From: Cosby, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Shrubs
Title: Plant identification of thorny shrub in Tennessee
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a mid to dark green thorny type bush growing on my land in Cosby, Tennessee. I am originaly from NJ and I have never seen it before. The stalk is varigated and the thorns are plentiful and very large. Thank you in advance for your help.

ANSWER:

This sound a bit like Poncirus trifoliata (Trifoliate orange), an Asian native that is considered invasive.  It does have formidable long thorns on it.

There are several hawthorns that are native to Tennessee.  Here are four of them:

Crataegus flava (Summer hawthorn)  Here are photos and more information from Plants for a Future.

Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington hawthorn)

Crataegus spathulata (Littlehip hawthorn)

Crataegus crus-galli (Cockspur hawthorn)

Here is a list of all 39 of the Crataegus species on our database.  You can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to see the 14 that grow in Tennessee.

Ribes cynosbati (Eastern prickly gooseberry)

Smilax rotundifolia (Roundleaf greenbrier)  Here are photos from Vanderbilt University.

Smilax tamnoides (Bristly greenbrier)  Here are photos from DiscoverLife.org.

Zanthoxylum americanum (Common pricklyash)  Here are more photos from Iowa State University.

Aralia spinosa (Devil's walkingstick)

Maclura pomifera (Osage orange)

There are several species of roses (Rosa sp.) and blackberrie/raspberries (Rubus sp.)

If none of these appears to be the thorny shrub that you have seen, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Washington hawthorn
Crataegus phaenopyrum

Littlehip hawthorn
Crataegus spathulata

Eastern prickly gooseberry
Ribes cynosbati

Common pricklyash
Zanthoxylum americanum

Devil's walking stick
Aralia spinosa

Cockspur hawthorn
Crataegus crus-galli

Osage orange
Maclura pomifera

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