Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

Support the plant database you love!

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

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.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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

 

 

More Trees Questions

Season to plant Pacific Wax Myrtle from Fallbrook CA
July 25, 2013 - Would like to know which season would be the best to plant Pacific Wax Myrtle in Fallbrook, CA area? I presently have invading bamboo, which I want to get rid of. Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Need tree suggestions for a long, narrow strip in Folsom, CA.
January 18, 2012 - I live in Folsom, Ca. I have a long strip (50') of planting area about 2.5' wide at the top of a retaining wall to the fence behind it. I would like to plant alternating (2) trees down this strip to...
view the full question and answer

Location of pine trees for a wedding site in Grapevine TX
April 30, 2014 - Okay, I know this is a long shot. My daughter is getting married in Grapevine, October 18 at sunrise. She REALLY wants to have the ceremony near pine trees. Any suggestions for locations in Grapevine ...
view the full question and answer

Protection of live oak trees from covering by concrete patio
February 02, 2008 - I am thinking about pouring a large cement patio around my live oak trees in my yard. I live in Rockport Tx. How far should the edge of the cement be, from the base of the tree? Will the patio kill th...
view the full question and answer

Arborvitae thinning in Bucks County, PA
April 09, 2010 - My arborvitae trees are about 11 ft. tall. I had them put in about 3 years ago. They were 8 to 10 ft. when planted. After the first year, I have noticed they are thinning to the point where you can se...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.