Montana Outdoors

July 31, 2008

Devil’s Club (or) Devilsclub

Oplopanax horridus

Devil's Club

Devil’s Club are interesting plants native to the Pacific Northwest, found from south-central Alaska south along the coast to Washington and Oregon and east into Idaho and Montana. It is also found, interestingly, on Passage Island in Lake Superior, but nowhere else between there and the Northwest. I have seen it in western Montana only in deep stream canyons in the company of old-growth Cedars (not bad company as far as I’m concerned).

Devil's Club

They are large plants: the leaves in these photos are about a foot across, and these plants are about 5 feet tall, but they get much larger. They are pretty tough customers because the stalks have long and brittle spines, and there are even spines on the larger leaves. If one figures out how to deal with the spines, the plants are edible and nutritious, but they’re very sensitive to human impact and do not reproduce quickly. They are closely related to American Ginseng.

Devil's Club

They are blossoming right now and the clump of blossoms in the photo is 6 to 8 inches tall.

Devil's Club

Some of the plants have fruit already, although it is still green as can be seen in the photo. When ripe, it’s bright red.

Devil's Club


  1. Yeah, the spines on those things are nasty. I had no idea they were edible; I’ll save that information for one of those days when killing and eating a grizzly barehanded is just too easy.


    Comment by wolf — July 31, 2008 @ 9:43 pm

  2. Yes I like these. They always make a dramatic statement in the woods. I never knew what they were called before now.


    Comment by Tabbie — July 31, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

  3. Those first two photographs are drop-dead gorgeous…


    Comment by Sumedh — July 31, 2008 @ 10:02 pm

  4. Wolf,
    I think I’ll pass on eating the Devil’s Club too and probably the Grizzly as well. I’ve eaten Black Bear though and found it to be very good.


    Comment by montucky — July 31, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

  5. Tabbie,
    I first saw them in an area of northwest Montana called the Ross Creek Cedars. It’s now a park where you can see a grove of very old red cedars, several of which are 8 feet in diameter. Since then I’ve found them in several back country canyons in this area. The size of the leaves is impressive and the fact that so much growth can take place in just one short summer season.


    Comment by montucky — July 31, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

  6. Thanks, Sumedh! A few beams of sunlight made it through the thick canopy and reminded me of spotlights on a stage where they framed those photos. Couldn’t pass them up!


    Comment by montucky — July 31, 2008 @ 10:24 pm

  7. I’m with Sumedh–those first two photographs are *fantastic*! The lighting is so dramatic and beautiful!

    From the name Devil’s Club I was expecting it to be poisonous, but I guess the spines account for the common name.



    Comment by Sara — August 1, 2008 @ 10:07 am

  8. Great photos, all around. I’ll try to come by more often in the future.


    Comment by Pinhole — August 1, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  9. Sara,
    The spines alone justify the name. I hiked through a small area of them today (they over-grew the trail) and can attest to the nastiness of those spines!

    There was an area where they were so thick that they covered the entire stream too: that was really pretty!


    Comment by montucky — August 1, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

  10. Thanks, Pinhole! Great to see you up and about again!


    Comment by montucky — August 1, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

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