Behold the Devil’s Walking Stick. Yes, that really serves as the common name for this unique plant. Just imagine brushing against those thorns while in the forest.
Also sometimes known as Devil’s Stick, this species developed endemic to the eastern regions of North America. They grow so heavily protected that even the edges of the extremely large leaves have a lining of enormous thorns, known as prickles. This appears legitimately derived from their tendency to prick the skin of any creatures that encounter them.
Despite their fearsome appearance, however, the leaves of the Devil’s Walking Stick are highly nutritious and edible if gathered in their infancy.
Interestingly, (not to mention thankfully) the prickles do not harden until the leaves fully mature, at which point the leaves are no longer edible anyway.
Devil’s Walking Stick Physical Description
The Devil’s Walking Stick actually develops as either a large deciduous shrub or a small tree (making it devilishly adaptive). As trees, the species attains a maximum height of approximately 26 ft (8 m). The trunk grows relatively thin, attaining a maximum diameter of only 8 in (20 cm).
The thorns for which it is renowned average 1/2 half in (1.25 cm) long.
The big and aromatic leaves grow as large as an impressive 47 in (120 cm) in length (all of them lined with those terrible thorns).
The flowers display a creamy white color and remain small, yet develop in large clusters.
The fruit forms a small berry, purple to black in color, and also appears in large groupings.
Devil’s Walking Stick Distribution and History
Though not commonly seen, the Devil’s Walking Stick seems quite widespread (in terms of area, though not in numbers) throughout the eastern section of the United States.
The species typically only grows naturally along the edges of forests, greatly (thankfully) reducing the chances of humans encountering its thorns. The Devil’s Walking Stick only develops well in deep, moist soil.
Historically, the local Native Americans highly prized the plant. The Iroquois planted it around the village as a deterrent to animal incursions.
Additionally, they used the fruit in foods, and the women often wore the lemon-scented flowers in their hair.