Last week I finally made it down to Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum in Bristol, RI. Blithewold is a garden estate with a dozen different gardens and some fabulous specimen trees (which I’ll write more about later in the week). Today I wanted to briefly write about Hercules’ club, a shrub that I was not familiar with until I saw it at Blithewold.
Mostly I’m writing about this particular tree so I can publish gratuitous kitty pics. This VERY friendly kitty (I named him Hercules) approached me on the path and jumped on the wall in front of the Hercules club (the tag made it easy to i.d.).
There are two trees known as Hercules’ club–one called Zanthoxylum clava-herculis and known as pepperwood or Southern prickly ash, and this one: Aralia spinosa, also known as angelica tree, devil’s walking stick, prickly elder, or prickly ash.
Native to the Eastern U.S., A. spinosa is a small tree or shrub with small white flowers and compound pinnate leaves. Hercules’ club likes moist soil and typically grows in thickets the forest understory or at the forest edge, as evidenced here in the forest at Blithewold. In the fall, the leaves turn a unique bronze-red color–this had not yet started to happen at Blithewold last week.
No matter, I was really taken by the berries. On the left you see that the tree has already fruited–its black berries hanging on panicles high in the air. Anyone know if you can eat them?
Here’s another pic of Hercules, the cat not the tree.
More on my visit to Blithewold over the next couple of days–I have some fabulous tree porn. But if you just can’t wait, please visit the Blithewold blog, where Kris Green, Blithewold horticulturist and blogger extraordinaire, blogs about working “on top of the world.”