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Zanthoxylum americanum (Common pricklyash)
Smith, R.W.

Zanthoxylum americanum

Zanthoxylum americanum Mill.

Common Pricklyash, Toothache Tree, Prickly Ash

Rutaceae (Rue Family)


USDA Symbol: zaam

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

A 12-25 ft., many-branched, shrub that often forms dense thickets. Toothache Tree or Prickly Ash is a citrus and all parts are pungent and aromatic. Inconspicuous flowers are followed by small red, turning black, fruits. Stems are armed with nodal pairs of thorns. Compound leaves, resembling ash foliage, are dark-green. Yellow autumn color.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 25 feet tall, often much shorter.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: Extreme s.w. Que. to e. ND, s. to GA, AL, OK & e. KS
Native Habitat: Rocky hillsides; thickets in prairie ravines; roadsides

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Soil Description: Rocky, calcareous soils.
Conditions Comments: Pest free. Because of thorns and weedy habit, this is not a desireable landscape plant except for use as a barrier in poor soils.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Thoas Swallowtail
(Papilio thoas)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA
Giant Swallowtail
(Papilio cresphontes)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA
Spicebush Swallowtail
(Papilio troilus)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Propagation by seed is possible.
Seed Collection: Capsules may be hand-picked from the shrub. The capsules open, discharging the seed after drying.
Seed Treatment: Seed exhibits a strong dormancy that can be broken with a two-hour H2SO4soak followed by cold-moist stratification for 120 days at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

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.

Web Reference

Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

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


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

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