The Ginseng Family in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon and Washington

Devilsclub, Devil's Club

Oplopanax horridus

Synonyms: Echinopanax horridum, Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida, Fatsia horridum, Oplopanax horridum, Panax horridum, Ricinophyllum horridum

Devilsclub, Devil's Club: Oplopanax horridus (Synonyms: Echinopanax horridum, Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida, Fatsia horridum, Oplopanax horridum, Panax horridum, Ricinophyllum horridum)

Devil's club as seen on Hardy Ridge, Beacon Rock State Park.......... May 14, 2014.

Inflorescence of Devilsclub, Devil's Club: Oplopanax horridus (Synonyms: Echinopanax horridum, Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida, Fatsia horridum, Oplopanax horridum, Panax horridum, Ricinophyllum horridum)Characteristics:

As both its common and species name imply, devil's club is a plant that one does not want to encounter first hand. It is a deciduous shrub with one to several erect stems from 1-7 meters high. The thick stems, petioles and leaf veins are generously covered with sharp yellow spines from 5-10 mm long. Older stems have a gray bark while the younger twigs and buds are reddish brown. The large leaves are simple and palmately lobed, the 7-9 lobes being shallow. The margins of the lobes are doubly serrate. The blades are about 10-35 cm wide and are about as long as the stout petioles. The base of the blade is hear-shaped.

The inflorescence is a terminal panicle or raceme up to 25 cm long. Individual flowers are greenish or white with 5 petals and measure 5-6 mm wide. The petals are long and loosely twisted. The flowers each have 20 stamens. The bright red berries are somewhat flattened and are 5-8 mm long.


Uses:

Despite the spiny nature of this plant, it can be used as an ornamental shrub. The layered look of the large leaves give the plant a tropical appearance and the berries are showy. The berries are inedible for human consumption but are eaten by bears. The leaves are eaten by slugs. The plant, when planted in dense rows could be used as an effective barrier to prevent livestock or humans from entering the wetland. Native Americans used the berries to repel lice and treat dandruff by rubbing the berries in the hair. The stems and spines were used to make fish hooks and lures. The outer bark of the stems was used as a dye or deodorant.


Habitat:

Devil's club is a riparian plant and may be found along forest streams and in moist soils in the forest.


Range:

Devil's club may be found from Alaska south to southern Oregon between the Cascade Mts. and Pacific coast. It may be found eastward through British Columbia and northern Washington to Idaho and Montana and the range extends into Michigan and Ontario.

In the Columbia River Gorge it may be found between the elevations of 100'-4000' between the Sandy and Hood Rivers.


Devilsclub, Devil's Club: Oplopanax horridus (Synonyms: Echinopanax horridum, Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida, Fatsia horridum, Oplopanax horridum, Panax horridum, Ricinophyllum horridum)

Devil's club from east of Crown Point, Columbia River Gorge..........late May, 2001.

Sharp spines of Devilsclub, Devil's Club: Oplopanax horridus (Synonyms: Echinopanax horridum, Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida, Fatsia horridum, Oplopanax horridum, Panax horridum, Ricinophyllum horridum)

Some of the numerous yellowish spines found along the stem of devil's club from east of Crown Point, Columbia River Gorge..........late May, 2001.

Sharp leaf spines of Devil's Club: Oplopanax horridum

A view of some of the sharp spines found above the veins on the upper surface of a leaf of devil's club.

Flowers of Devilsclub, Devil's Club: Oplopanax horridus (Synonyms: Echinopanax horridum, Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida, Fatsia horridum, Oplopanax horridum, Panax horridum, Ricinophyllum horridum)

A close-up of two of the flower clusters of devil's club.

Devilsclub, Devil's Club: Oplopanax horridus (Synonyms: Echinopanax horridum, Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida, Fatsia horridum, Oplopanax horridum, Panax horridum, Ricinophyllum horridum)

Devil's club as seen just below Latourell Falls in the western Columbia River Gorge........May 18, 2009.

Devilsclub, Devil's Club: Oplopanax horridus (Synonyms: Echinopanax horridum, Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida, Fatsia horridum, Oplopanax horridum, Panax horridum, Ricinophyllum horridum)

Devil's club with berries as seen along the Pacific Crest Trail near Three Corner Rock, Columbia River Gorge.........August 2011.

Paul Slichter