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A tree for the Devil and a flower for a Queen

If the devil needs a walking stick, I have no doubt that he would choose Aralia spinosa, a small tree that is literally covered in sharp spines. Other than devil's walking stick, Aralia spinosa is also known as devil's club, Hercules' club, prickly elder and spikenard tree, to name just a few. Aralia spinosa is a large shrub or small tree native to the eastern U.S. and found throughout Delaware.


You might assume that a tree (or bush) named for the devil couldn’t possibly be something that you’d want in your garden, and you might be correct. But, then again, you might be mistaken. Take a close look, with your mind wide open.


Aralia spinosa gets its common name, Devil’s Walking Stick, from the abundant sharp spines found on nearly all parts of the plant, which usually grows to 10 or 15 feet tall.

Is it well named? I'd say that it is!

However, given plenty of sunlight and room, they have been known to reach as much as 35 feet tall. That’s a lot of spines. Aralia spinosa is native throughout the eastern United States and is most likely to be found along the edges of woods and streams.

A small sucker tree next to it's 15 foot tall mother tree.

The huge panicles of late summer flowers at the top of Devil's Walking Stick offer a unique ornamental possibility for your pollinator garden and the birds will love the clusters of round, fleshy black berries, which are more like tiny cherries and are called drupes, If you do choose it for your garden, promptly remove the root suckers or you will soon have an entire thicket of the spiney trees.

Thousands of tiny flowers, still in bud.
Close-up of one of the devil's walking stick flower clusters. Each of the tiny flowers will produce a juicy, black drupe.

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Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota

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I think everyone is probably familiar with Queen Anne’s Lace, common in dry fields and alongside roads nearly everywhere, and you probably also know that they are related to carrots. The foliage is a dead giveaway.

Queen Anne's Lace foliage

Your domestic garden carrot was developed in Central Asia from Daucus carota some 1,100 years ago and the first carrots were yellow and purple. By the 1500s the orange carrots that we’re familiar with were being used in Europe.


Queen Anne’s Lace is not native to North America, it was brought here by the early European settlers because of their belief in it’s medicinal properties. It is said to be named for the wife of King James I; because people thought it resembled her lace, or at least the lace that was fashionable during their reign in the late 1500 and early 1600s.



Daucus carota needs two growing seasons to produce flowers and seeds. In the first year, the seeds germinate and produce just a small clump of ferny green leaves. The feathery leaves are said to irritate the skin of some people. It also produces a long, spindly taproot that is edible when young, but is not nearly as tasty as your garden carrots. In the second season the plant produces flowers and seeds, and then dies off.

The “flowers” that everyone is so familiar with are actually compound flowers, made up of perhaps a thousand or more very tiny white flowers, in a flat-topped cluster, usually with a dark, purplish center.


As the seeds ripen the cluster dries and curls up into the shape of a bird’s nest.

Queen Anne's Lace "birds nest" full of seeds.

Hundreds of tiny, bristly seeds are produced, one for each of the tiny flowers. The seeds will easily latch onto the fur, or clothing, of a passerby.

Queen Anne's Lace seeds

Queen Anne’s Lace can crowd out native plants that can’t compete and in many places it is considered a noxious weed. However, it is a host plant for the caterpillars of the eastern black swallowtail butterfly and many other insects use their nectar. If you would like to enjoy Queen Anne’s Lace in your yard, but don’t want it to spread, simply snip off the "bird's nest" seedheads before they dry and dispose of them.


Queen Anne’s Lace has a long history of medicinal uses. Hippocrates said that the crushed seeds would act as a birth control more than two thousand years ago, and some doctors still advise women to avoid the flower heads if they hope to conceive. It has also been used as a diuretic, an antiseptic and is said to sooth the stomach. Over the years the grated the root of Queen Anne’s Lace was mixed it with oil to sooth topical burns. Eating the dozen or so tiny purple flowers in the center of the flower cluster was once prescribed to cure epilepsy.

Purple flowers in the center of the flower cluster

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