Hercules’ Club Tree

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Botanical Name:  Zanthoxylum clava-herculis

Common Name:  Hercules’ club, Hercules-Club, Pepperwood, Southern Prickly Ash, Toothache Tree, Tickle Tongue

Description:  Ok, here is yet another super cool native tree that needs to be in your garden. Ya gotta know it’ll be interesting just by all the common names it goes by.

Aromatic, spiny, round-crowned tree with spreading branches and tiny gland-dots on foliage, flowers, and fruit. It’s in the Rue/Citrus family. Can grow in sun to part shade. Is native in these areas: Central Virginia to South Florida, west to East Texas, and north to Southeast Oklahoma. Its native habitat is fence rows, prairie, plains, meadows, pastures, and savannas. Grows 20-30′ tall x 12-15′ wide. Is deciduous.

Follicles (fruit) produced in clusters, individual fruits enclosed in a brown husk that splits open at maturity to reveal a shiny red-brown to black seed. The fruit is edible, with a lemon zest taste that first tingles, then numbs in the mouth, like the Szechuan peppers used in Chinese cuisine. The leaves have a similar but less intense taste and effect.

The bark of the trunk is light gray and thinly covered with conspicuous, corky, cone-like tubercles (wartlike outgrowths). The twigs are brown to gray and have simple spines. In other words, this tree has thorns/spines all over it. I put them in one place in Bella’s garden area, and that’s where they’re staying until y’all buy them cause they are not easy to move around. Make sure you have gloves when you transplant it.

The fragrant but tiny flowers are greenish white and appear in April and May.

Hercules’ Club provides an excellent source of seeds and fruit for birds. Is the only Texas native host plant for the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes). Very valuable to wildlife.

There is a tree called Texas Hercules’ Club, Zanthoxylum hirsutum. That one likes the alkaline soils of west Texas. The one I’m selling likes the acidic soils of East Texas.

This plant in the 2.5 gallon container is 3-4′ tall x 2-3′ wide.

Fun Fact:  The common and Latin species names both refer to the spiny branches. Native Americans and early settlers reportedly chewed the bark and leaves of this tree as a toothache remedy (oils produce a tingling/numbing sensation in the mouth).

Hardiness Zones  7 – 9


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