Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Plant of the Month: Devil's club

Friday, June 24, 2011

Oplopanax horridus
Photo from Wikimedia
By Sarah Baker, Garden Director

As its name implies, Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus) is a fearsome, thorny plant. The plant is covered with small spines that break off easily when handled, and its large size and leaves give it a primordial appearance perfect for its preferred habitat: The dense, misty, old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest.

As a relative of ginseng, a popular medicinal plant, Devil’s club has numerous medicinal qualities traditionally valued by the Northwest’s Native Americans. The plant was used to treat tumors and diabetes. Some herbalists believe that, like ginseng, the plant can increase resistance to anxiety, stress, and exhaustion. It has been harvested for this purpose and sold as "Alaskan ginseng."

With striking foliage and form, and dramatic clusters of red berries, Devil’s club makes a unique garden plant but is seldom used as such. It can thrive in shady home gardens when placed in moist, acidic soil. It is generally slow growing, reaching up to nine feet in height, but is well worth the wait for the patient gardener! Devil’s club flowers in the spring and is available to purchase in the MsK Nursery.

Kruckeberg Botanic Garden and MsK Rare and Native Plant Nursery is located at 20312 15th Ave NW in Shoreline, WA 98177.

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