Devil's Club

Devil's Club
Devil's club
Flower and bumblebees
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Araliaceae
Subfamily: Aralioideae
Genus: Oplopanax
Species: O. horridus
Binomial name
Oplopanax horridus
(Sm.) Miq.

Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus, Araliaceae; syn. Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida) is a large shrub primarily native to the cool moist forests of western North America, but also disjunct on islands in Lake Superior. It is noted for its large palmate leaves and erect, woody stems covered in brittle spines. Also known as Devil's Walking Stick, the species was once included in the closely related genus Fatsia as Fatsia horrida.[1]

Devil's Club generally grows to 1 to 1.5 metres (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 10 in) tall; however, instances exist of it reaching in excess of 5 metres (16 ft) in rainforest gullies. The spines are found along the upper and lower surfaces of veins of its leaves as well as the stems. The leaves are spirally arranged on the stems, simple, palmately lobed with 5-13 lobes, 20 to 40 centimetres (7.9 to 16 in) across. The flowers are produced in dense umbels 10 to 20 centimetres (3.9 to 7.9 in) diameter, each flower small, with five greenish-white petals. The fruit is a small red drupe 4 to 7 millimetres (0.16 to 0.28 in) diameter.[1]

The plant is covered with brittle yellow spines that break off easily if the plants are handled or disturbed, and the entire plant has been described as having a "primordial" appearance. Devil's Club is very sensitive to human impact and does not reproduce quickly. The plants are slow growing and take many years to reach seed bearing maturity, and predominately exist in dense, moist, old growth conifer forests in the Pacific Northwest.[1]

Shiny red drupes in elongate clusters (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest).



This species usually grows in moist, dense forest habitats, and is most abundant in old growth conifer forests. It is found from Southcentral Alaska to western Oregon and eastward to western Alberta and Montana. Disjunct native populations also occur over 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) away in Lake Superior on Isle Royale and Passage Island, Michigan and Porphyry Island and Slate Island, Ontario.[1]


Devil's club reproduces by forming clonal colonies through a layering process. What can appear to be several different plants may actually have all been one plant originally, with the clones detaching themselves after becoming established by laying down roots.[2]


Spines of O. horridus, Squak Mountain State Park, Issaquah, Washington
Large leaves extend from the top of spiny stems

Native Americans used the plant both as food and medicine. The plant was traditionally used by Native Americans to treat adult-onset diabetes and a variety of tumors. Traditionally, it was and is still used to make paints. In vitro studies showed that extracts of Devil's Club inhibit tuberculosis microbes.[3]

Because Devil's club is related to American Ginseng, some think that the plant is an adaptogen ("mind enhancer"). The plant has been harvested for this purpose and marketed widely as "Alaskan ginseng",[4] which may damage populations of Devil's Club and its habitat. The genus Panax ('true' ginseng) is exceptional among Araliaceae both morphologically and chemically.[citation needed] Other, even closely related plants with proven adaptogen effects, such as Eleutherococcus senticosus the "siberian ginseng", are chemically dissimilar to Panax ginseng.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Pojar, Jim; Andy MacKinnon (1994). Plants of Coastal British Columbia. BC Ministry of Forests and Lone Pine Publishing. pp. 82. ISBN=1-55105-042-0. 
  2. ^ Trevor C. Lantz and Joseph A. Antos (2002). "Clonal expansion in the deciduous understory shrub, devil's club". Can. J. Bot. 80 (10): 1052–1062. doi:10.1139/b02-095. 
  3. ^ Inui T, Wang Y, Deng S, Smith DC, Franzblau SG, Pauli GF (Jun 1). "Counter-current chromatography based analysis of synergy in an anti-tuberculosis ethnobotanical". Journal of Chromatography A 1151 (1-2): 211–5. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2007.01.127. PMC 2533621. PMID 17316661. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Davydov M, Krikorian AD (2000). "Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. & Maxim.) Maxim. (Araliaceae) as an adaptogen: a closer look". J Ethnopharmacol. 72 (3): 345–93. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(00)00181-1. PMID 10996277. 

External links

Media related to Devil's Club at Wikimedia Commons

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