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Zanthoxylum clava-herculis - L.                
Common Name Hercules Club. Prickly Ash - Southern, Hercules' club, Southern Prickly Ash
Family Rutaceae
Synonyms Zanthoxylum carolinianum. Zanthoxylum catesbianum. Zanthoxylum clavatum.
Known Hazards Absorption of gut iron reduced. sun sensitivity, bruising and bleeding. May interfere with cardiac glycoside therapy. May interfere with blood clotting drugs [301].
Habitats Usually found as scattered trees near the coast in light sandy soils, often on bluffs of islands, river banks or dunes[229]. Best growth is from plants in most rich soils with good drainage[229].
Range South-eastern N. America - Virginia to Florida, west to Texas and Arkansas.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Mid summer. Form: Rounded, Vase.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Zanthoxylum clava-herculis is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft 10in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in leaf 1-Mar It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile.

USDA hardiness zone : 7-11

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Zanthoxylum clava-herculis Hercules Club. Prickly Ash - Southern, Hercules
Zanthoxylum clava-herculis Hercules Club. Prickly Ash - Southern, Hercules
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;
Edible Uses                                         
The following report is for Z. americanum, it is probably also applicable to this species[K]. Seed - used as a condiment. A pepper substitute[106]. The fruit is rather small, about 4 - 5m in diameter[229], but is produced in dense clusters which makes harvesting easy[K]. Each fruit contains a single seed[229].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antirheumatic;  Antispasmodic;  Diuretic;  Irritant;  Odontalgic;  Stimulant.

This species is quite widely used in herbal medicine, it has the same properties as Z. americanum, but is said to be more active[4]. All parts of the plant, but especially the bark and roots, contain the aromatic bitter oil xanthoxylin[4]. This has a number of applications in medicine[4]. The fruit has a similar medicinal action to the bark[4]. The bark and roots are irritant, odontalgic and antirheumatic[213]. Along with the fruit they are diaphoretic, stimulant and a useful tonic in debilitated conditions of the stomach and digestive organs[4]. They produce arterial excitement and are of use in the treatment of fevers, ague, poor circulation etc[4]. The fruits are considered more active than the bark, they are also antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic and antirheumatic[4, 213, 222]. The pulverized root and bark are used to ease the pain of toothache[213, 222]. One report says that it is very efficacious, but the sensation of the acrid bark is fully as unpleasant as the toothache[213]. Chewing the bark induces copious salivation[222]. Rubbing the fruit against the skin, especially on the lips or in the mouth, produces a temporary loss of sensation[K]. A tea or tincture of the bark has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, dyspepsia, dysentery, heart and kidney troubles etc[222]. A tea made from the inner bark has been used to treat itchy skin[213].
Other Uses
Wood - light, soft, weak and close-grained[82, 229]. It weighs 31lb per cubic foot[227]. Too small for commercial use[229].
Cultivation details                                         
Landscape Uses:Border, Massing. Prefers a good deep well-drained moisture retentive soil in full sun or semi-shade[1, 11, 200]. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c[200]. The leaves are often persistent until the following spring when the new leaves are produced[82]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Flowers are formed on the old wood[206]. Special Features:North American native, Attracts butterflies, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed may requires up to 3 months cold stratification, though scarification may also help[113]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Germination should take place in late spring, though it might take another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings, 3cm long, planted horizontally in pots in a greenhouse. Good percentage[78]. Suckers, removed in late winter and planted into their permanent positions[113].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[82]Sargent. C. S. Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader.
[106]Coon. N. The Dictionary of Useful Plants.
Interesting reading but short on detail.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[206]Larkcom J. Oriental Vegetables
Well written and very informative.
[213]Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
[222]Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
[227]Vines. R.A. Trees of North Texas
A readable guide to the area, it contains descriptions of the plants and their habitats with quite a bit of information on plant uses.
[229]Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
[301]Karalliedde. L. and Gawarammana. I. Traditional Herbal Medicines
A guide to the safer use of herbal medicines.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Lisa Coker Mon May 12 2008
I would like to purchase plants or seeds for the hercules club tree. I live in South TX just north of Houston. I know the tree can survive here. I have seen one at the state park a few miles from my house. pls tell me where i can find this plant. thanks! LC
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