Montana Outdoors

June 18, 2012

In a cedar forest

Filed under: Spring Creek — Tags: , — montucky @ 9:06 pm

Devil's Club

Beneath the cedars

Beneath the cedars

Beneath the cedars

The very large leaves in these photos belong to a plant aptly called “Devil’s Club”, Oplopanax horridus; note the large sharp spines. It grows up to 9 feet tall and the leaves get up to 14 inches across. A flower bud is visible in the first photo: it will turn into white blossoms followed by bright red fruit. I will try to remember to follow up with photos of both later in the summer. I found there is a reason for the species name horridus after having accidentally making contact with some of the spines.

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42 Comments »

  1. That’s like a combination of maple, garlic mustard, and brambles!

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    Comment by jomegat — June 18, 2012 @ 9:43 pm

    • Shelter, a relatively stable temperature and plenty of water creates an Eden for plants, even this far north. It’s amazing the number of species there are in there!

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      Comment by montucky — June 18, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

  2. I love the lushness of this season! with the pouring rain that drums on my roof at the moment, it will continue to be lush for a while.

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    Comment by Tammie — June 18, 2012 @ 10:54 pm

    • We had a little rain this evening too. I think that your are has had much more volume of rain than we have. We’ve had lots of showers, but they have mostly been light without any substantial water. The canyons with streams are pretty normal and very beautiful now, but the open mountainsides here are very dry.

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      Comment by montucky — June 18, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  3. Beautiful photos, especially with the waterfall behind. You get a real sense of the dampness and cool shade. The Devil’s Club sounds unpleasant!

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    Comment by Jo Woolf — June 18, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

    • It’s one of those plants where you look but don’t touch. You sure don’t try to push your way through it!

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 8:28 am

  4. I’ve heard of devil’s club but haven’t ever seen it. It certainly stands out from the surrounding vegetation.

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    Comment by New Hampshire Gardener — June 19, 2012 @ 6:12 am

    • Yes, it stands out and even more when the berries are ripe. I’ve always been amazed that those huge leaves grow that large in just a few weeks.

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 8:30 am

  5. Lovely greens!
    At 9ft tall, those Devil Clubs could be considered a tree, too. Do the birds like the berries?

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    Comment by bearyweather — June 19, 2012 @ 6:38 am

    • I’ve never seen birds around them, but I see few birds in the canyon. I hear their calls, but most are very shy. The berries are considered to be not edible, but I haven’t read that they are poisonous. Devil’s Club is a member of the ginseng family and the Indians use various parts of the plant for all sorts of things.

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 8:32 am

  6. WOW a tropical looking plant in the mountains…who would have thought! Excellent photos Montucky.

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    Comment by dhphotosite — June 19, 2012 @ 7:43 am

    • There are several such places not far from here where a small stream flows through a deep canyon with a good growth of cedars and those are the only places where I’ve seen Devil’s Club. I’ve learned to associate it with cedars and water.

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 8:34 am

  7. Horridus, indeed! This plant makes one thankful for the efforts of the trail-builders who went before us.
    Love the water droplets on the fourth one. Exquisite.

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    Comment by Kim — June 19, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    • It certainly does make me thankful for the trail builders! I think of them very often! A few years ago I hiked that trail, I think it was in July, and got to a point where the thimbleberries had covered the trail so thickly that I couldn’t push my way through and turned around. It’s amazing what vegetation does in places like that!

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 8:37 am

  8. What a striking plant- love the horridus name!

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    Comment by Watching Seasons — June 19, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    • I like the name too. I don’t suppose the same person also named the Grizzly bear “Ursus arctos horribilis“?

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

  9. It kind of reminds me of maple leaf viburnum. Except for the stickers, that is! It is a pretty bush, but I wouldn’t want to get too close to it.

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    Comment by sandy — June 19, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

    • The leaves certainly resemble maple, don’t they! It’s actually a member of the ginseng family. Those spines are really very nasty!

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

  10. Do you know if it’s an invasive species? We have several brambles around here that are prolific but no where near as large as that…although they can get quite tall. But we are battling invasive species that are threatening our woodlands to a great extent here.

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    Comment by snowbirdpress — June 19, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

    • No, it’s native to the USA (AK, ID, MI, MT, OR, WA), and Canada (AB, BC, ON, YT)

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

      • While I’m relieved that it’s native, the very thought of something like that coming here still makes me very uneasy. It surely sounds like it desrves its name.

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        Comment by snowbirdpress — June 20, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

        • I just heard a foraging cook from San Fransico Ca. say he loves the blossoms of the “Devil’s Club” … he serves them with a chocolate sauce! Amazing world, this!

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          Comment by snowbirdpress — June 20, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

          • I’ve read that the native people of the northwest Interior ground various parts of the plant to use in a variety of medicines, but I don’t think the even they ate it.

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            Comment by montucky — June 20, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

  11. Ouch, huh?

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    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — June 19, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

    • Yes, big ouch! The spines are needle sharp, quite long, and brittle. They break off easily and stay embedded.

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

  12. So many shades of green! And the roughness on those Devil’s Club leaves is obvious. When we took to the bush paths in Liberia, we always had a couple of fellows with us who were skilled with a machete – good for vegetation and snakes!

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    Comment by shoreacres — June 19, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

    • Were it not for the USFS trail crews who keep them at bay, I would also carry a machete while hiking in that area. The leaves even have spines on their bottom surfaces.

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      Comment by montucky — June 19, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

  13. How lush in cedar forest! I wouldn’t care to have contact with those spines of the Devil’s Club. Interesting how plants are named. 🙂

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    Comment by Anna Surface — June 20, 2012 @ 6:10 am

    • I think that whomever named this one had a bad encounter with it!

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      Comment by montucky — June 20, 2012 @ 10:08 pm

  14. ouch!!

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    Comment by skouba — June 20, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

  15. Beautiful shots…I can almost smell the mulch on the forest floor. 🙂

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    Comment by seekraz — June 20, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

    • Yes, and the smell of the cedar.

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      Comment by montucky — June 20, 2012 @ 10:09 pm

      • I don’t have a sensory memory or reference for that other than smelling my mother’s old cedar chest…I can imagine that smell, but don’t know if it would be the same as being out with the trees in their element before they’re cut and processed…but if it is, it’s wonderful. 🙂

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        Comment by seekraz — June 21, 2012 @ 6:45 am

        • It’s very similar. You would instantly recognize it. And even better yet, there are an assortment of other smells as well.

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          Comment by montucky — June 21, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

          • I’m sure I would…and those other smells are inviting as well. I am still struck by the sensory memories of my first hike up here in our canyons…it was like a warm perfume riding on the breeze, Montucky…it was transporting, really…I’m sure you know what I mean. 🙂

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            Comment by seekraz — June 22, 2012 @ 8:00 am

  16. A cedar forest, wow! That looks beautiful and must smell wonderful.

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    Comment by Candace — June 21, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

    • Both! I find it interesting that these small cedar forests exist in small, deep canyons away from the roads. The usual traveller through this area would have no idea they are there. They are real treasures for those who love nature!

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      Comment by montucky — June 21, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

  17. Amazing pictures, I’m looking forward to seeing the follow-ups.

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    Comment by Finn Holding — June 21, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

    • I will visit there every two weeks or so. I want to catch the Devil’s Club in bloom and several other wildflowers that bloom there a little later. It’s not far from my house but it’s a very steep trail.

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      Comment by montucky — June 21, 2012 @ 10:46 pm


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