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Zanthoxylum clava-herculis (Hercules club)
Brundage, Stephanie

Zanthoxylum clava-herculis

Zanthoxylum clava-herculis L.

Hercules Club, Pepperbark, Toothache Tree, Tickle Tongue, Prickly Ash

Rutaceae (Rue Family)

Synonym(s): Zanthoxylum macrophyllum


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Aromatic, spiny, round-crowned tree with spreading branches and tiny gland-dots on foliage, flowers, and fruit.

The common and Latin species names both refer to the spiny branches. As the alternate names indicate, the bitter aromatic bark is a home remedy for toothache; chewing bark or foliage numbs the pain.


From the Image Gallery

23 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 50 feet tall. Often much shorter and shrub-like.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Jan , Feb , Mar , Apr , May


USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , LA , MS , NC , OK , SC , TX , VA
Native Distribution: Central Virginia to S. Florida, west to E. Texas, and north to SE. Oklahoma; to 500' (152 m).
Native Habitat: Fence rows, Prairie, Plains, Meadows, Pastures, Savannas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Sandy Loam, Sandy, Medium Loam, Acid-based


Use Ornamental: Aromatic, Showy
Use Wildlife: Seeds-granivorous birds.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Giant swallowtail butterfly.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Giant Swallowtail
(Papilio cresphontes)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Texas Master Naturalists - Lost Pines Chapter - Bastrop, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-1073 Collected 2007-08-02 in Harris County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 57 - Atlas of Florida Plants (2020) Institute for Systematic Botany
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Zanthoxylum clava-herculis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Zanthoxylum clava-herculis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Zanthoxylum clava-herculis


Record Modified: 2023-05-16
Research By: TWC Staff

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