Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Common Pricklyash - Zanthoxylum americanum

The Common Pricklyash - Zanthoxylum americanum or the Toothache Tree as it is also called. Is best recognized by the combination of alternate pinnate leaves with paired prickles, and occasional paired prickles at the leaflet nodes and clusters of greenish yellow flowers. It is a small deciduous, thicket forming, slender tree that usually only reaches heights of 20-35 feet tall. It is native to the Northeastern, Central and Mid-Atlantic United States with occasional specimens found as far South as Florida. It prefers moist or dry woodlands and rich soils from 0-600 m, it is widespread in the East.

Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

The leaves are alternately pinnate with blades that are 15-20 cm long, petioles that are 3-6 cm long and 5-11 leaflets each. The upper leave surface is a medium to dark green that is lustrous in sheen, while the lower surface is paler and hairy. The flower of the Common Pricklyash is unisex or bisexual with the male and female generally occurring on different plants. Each flower contains 4-5 green to yellow petals with fringed tips and 2-5 pistils that are produced in small axillary clusters in the Spring-Summer season. The fruit is a fleshy brown pod with 1-2 shiny black seeds each, the fruit matures.

Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

The Hercules club is considered to be the most similar species to the Common Pricklyash, though it's prickles are more stout and irregularly scattered, they are similar in appearance and often confused for one another by the untrained eye.
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