Hercules’ Club, Zanthoxylum clava-herculis

Hercules’ Club (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis), also known as Pepperwood, Southern Prickly Ash, and other common names, is a species of shrub native to the southeastern United States. This tree is also called Z. macrophyllum. It is commonly nicknamed “toothache tree” or “tingle tongue” because of the numbness to the mouth, teeth and tongue it induces when the leaves or bark is chewed on.

The Hercules’ Club grows to 32.5 to 55.75 feet tall. The bark is thick, spined and has cork-like lumps nearly 1 inch long. The leaves are pinnate (resembling a feather, having parts arranged on both sides of the stem/stalk) and are 7.8 to 11.8 inches long. Each leaf has 7 to 19 leaflets and each leaflet is 1.5 to 2 inches long. The flowers are dioecious (occurring in separate sexes, as in each flower is either male or female). The flowers are very small and have 3 to 5 white petals. The fruit is a two-valve capsule with a rough surface. The fruit contains several black seeds.

The tree requires plentiful water and sunlight. The fruit is eaten by a variety of birds, and the leaves are rummaged over by deer. Many insect species may be found on this plant, including the Giant Swallowtail and the Leaf beetle.