Late August, while camping at Meziadin Lake in Northern BC, I happened across a lovely hedge of Devil’s Club in berry.
Leaves the size of dinner plates contrast nicely with the background greenery. But it’s the large pyramids of red berries that really catch my eye.
No wonder this moisture loving shrub is gaining popularity as a decorative garden specimen.
But for me, no matter how enticing the look of the plant, I’m keeping my distance. Consider the warning in the name: Devil’s Club.
Even in the Latin name: Oplopanax horridus.
- To start, the thorns are especially horridus.
Spikes & brittle thorns not only circle trunks & stems but protect the leaves– both top & bottom! They easily break off, causing festering wounds in the victim. What gardener wants that?
Devil’s Club is just plain standoffish.
- And those beautiful berries?
Unless you’re a bear…
Bear are really hungry in late summer. They’re desperate to gain weight before winter & must have guts of steel.
Devil’s Club just wants to be left alone.
- And then there’s the sad tendency for Devil’s Club to get tall & lanky. That looks fine in the ditches of a campground, but in a well-groomed garden?
Not so much.
Even though I’m extremely wary of Devil’s Club, it’s held in high regard by many indigenous nations throughout its range. Perhaps because of its many threats to humans, folks gain stature for mastery over its dangers. I’m not that kind of gardener. I’m looking for pretty, low maintenance plants that attract birds & butterflies. I’m kinda wimpy that way.
But for others, if the attraction is the primordial look, I suggest Japanese aralia (Fatsia Japonica). It has large palmate leaves, too, but without prickly spines. I also prefer its funky spring flower. And the big bonus: Japanese aralia isn’t poisonous. 🙂
If it’s the bright red berries you’re hoping for, then I reckon those on the Mountain Ash are just as stunning. They attract birds, not bear, and persist long after the leaves have fallen. (Great outdoor Christmas decorations.)
Don’t get me wrong – – Devil’s Club is a beautiful & powerful native plant.
I garden with many other native plants.
And I really admire Devil’s Club– in the wilderness 🙂
3 thoughts on “Devil’s Club In Berry”
Nice article. Definitely leave this one for the bears 🙂
I’ve not seen any berries on devil’s club this year on the specimen at the RBC Native Plant garden or in the Cowichan Valley where it is often seen. Not so common around Victoria.
Hmmm – that’s very interesting Michael – – I wonder if there’s a lack of pollinators? Or perhaps too much drought through summer for the berries to form ????