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Zanthoxylum clava-herculis Linnaeus. Southern Toothache Tree, Hercules'-club, Sea-ash, Southern Prickly-ash, Pepper-bark, Tickle-tongue. Phen: Mar-May; Jun-Sep. Hab: Maritime forests, dunes, shell middens, shell hammocks, maritime scrub, inland (in FL and GA) in hammocks. Dist: A Southeastern Coastal Plain endemic: se. VA south to s. FL and west to TX, AR, and OK. In the northern part of its distribution, it is restricted to the outer Coastal Plain, nearly entirely on barrier islands.

ID notes: The compound leaves are armed with stout prickles along the rachis. The twigs are also spiny. On the larger branches and trunks, the spines become elevated on conical, pyramidal, or cylindrical corky bases up to 5 cm long and 4 cm in diameter, giving the trunk a very peculiar appearance. Although normally a small tree, it can reach considerable size, up to about 60 cm DBH.

Origin/Endemic status: Native

Other Comments: Many of the common names come from the numbing effect on the mouth of chewing the leaf or twig, the flavor, smell, and effect being very similar to Ctenium aromaticum, Toothache Grass.

Synonymy: = Ar, C, Fl4, G, K1, K3, K4, NcTx, RAB, S, Tat, Tx, Va, WH3, Porter (1976); = Fagara clava-herculis (L.) Small – S13; = Xanthoxylum clava-herculis – F, orthographic variant; = Zanthoxylum clava-herculis L. ssp. clava-herculis – Reynel (2017)

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Wetland Indicator Status:

  • Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain: FAC
  • Eastern Mountains and Piedmont: FAC
  • Great Plains: FACU

Heliophily: 7

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image of plant© Gary P. Fleming | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Richard & Teresa Ware CC-BY-NC, permission granted to NCBG
image of plant© Aidan Campos source | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Gary P. Fleming | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Gary P. Fleming | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Gary P. Fleming | Original Image ⭷

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