Devil’s club, Hercules club
ARALIACEAE, The Aralia family
Devil’s club is one of the most important medicinal and ceremonial plants for native people in the Northwest. The roots and inner bark have been used to treat digestive problems, ulcers, arthritis and diabetes. Because of its fierce looking spines, (hence the epithet ‘horridus’), it was thought to provide protection against evil spirits. It was also used for fishing lures.
I saw this plant in the Quinalt forest on the Olympic peninsula in Washington, and other moist forests. It can grow quite tall and upright, to 9 feet, or sprawl almost horizontally. Usually it is found in colonies about 10 feet wide. The flowers are bright red clusters, reminiscent of sumac, and the leaves are large like ornamental rhubarb.