Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Prickly Ash, Tickle Tongue Tree, Toothache Tree, Texas Hercules Club
Zanthoxylum hirsutum

Family: Rutaceae (roo-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Zanthoxylum (zan-THOK-sil-um) (Info)
Species: hirsutum (her-SOO-tum) (Info)

5 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)
12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Seed is poisonous if ingested
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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By Wingnut
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By frostweed
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By texasflora_com
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By eatmyplants
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By eatmyplants
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By gregr18
Thumbnail #6 of Zanthoxylum hirsutum by gregr18

By Mastercarpenter
Thumbnail #7 of Zanthoxylum hirsutum by Mastercarpenter

There are a total of 8 photos.
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8 positives
5 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral PlowboyJ On Nov 20, 2014, PlowboyJ from Celeste, TX wrote:

This I believe grows just about everywhere in Texas. I had one that just appeared next my house in Dripping Springs. It was nearly 16' tall and 4" in dia. in 4 years, then I moved. At the ranch I had in Coleman County they were everywhere. I finely learned the name Prickly Ash from the USDA guy. When I put ranch for sale the realtor gave me the story about tickle tongue. Now I live near Greenville in northeast Texas and have some in the fence line here.
One thing for sure is they are not an easy kill. The younger the better is the best time. Anytime you can get good (85%) kill by cutting as close to the ground as possible and painting the stump with a mix 50/50 Remedy and diesel.
All have had torn like a rose, trunk included, until they reached about 8' tall and 3" dia. then the torn on the trunk fall off. 3 locations all the same. The leaves do have a numbing effect but doesn't last to long.

Positive looknthrwolfeye On Apr 11, 2014, looknthrwolfeye from Brooksville, FL wrote:

i am trying my darnest to find this tree or seeds. or branch. can some one please contact me who has one. or send it out. shar 25410 harwell str, brooksville,fl 34601. been searching years for it. i seen 1 in florida lil north of here. bark does numb your mouth, has thorns on it.going bananas.352-293-5866 thankyou,

Neutral TxHill2013 On Nov 10, 2013, TxHill2013 from San Pedro, TX wrote:

We live in Davy Crockett National Forest and these trees are everywhere.

I like the tree very much. However, it propagates and spreads quickly between the wind and the birds. We have too many of them along our fence lines and would really like to be rid of most of them.

They are very difficult to cut down and will return from even a stub.

Anyone have a sure way to be rid of them selectively?

Does anyone know if the wood is safe to burn in a wood stove or fireplace??

Positive Mastercarpenter On Aug 11, 2013, Mastercarpenter from Magnolia, TX wrote:

I have a slab of this tree. Approx. 6'tall and 30" wide. Most beautiful wood I have ever seen. I will try to get a picture for you. I am a carpenter of forty years

Positive Farkleberry On Jul 27, 2012, Farkleberry from Austin, TX wrote:

Had no idea what this was last fall when i first spotted it. In February it was about 10" tall and as thick as a pencil when I mowed it down to 4". Now in July, 5 monthes, it is nearly 5' tall. Very fast grower. Chewing the leaves do indeed make the mouth go numb, has a citris flavor that is not very pleasent. Many thorns on the branches and leaves, but those on the trunk mostly fell off leaving only scars. I like the tree but unfortunantnly it is growing just inches from the roof drain and must be moved. I'm waiting for the leaves to fall. It may be 8' tall by then. Then i will dig it up and transplant it on the back property line.

Positive eatmyplants On May 22, 2010, eatmyplants from Comanche county, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I think the name Hercules' Club is unsuitable for this tree because not one tree I've seen, young or old, had thorns on the trunks, which are smooth and splotched with white. There are at least two other plants with the name Hercules' Club also. By the way, if you ever decide to taste one of the fruits from this tree, you better have some water handy. It's very overpowering. Tastes much like lemon or lime, but has a very strong, long-lasting aftertaste. And no, the fruit did not numb my mouth. Neither did the leaves, so it is indeed the bark that has the numbing effect. And possibly the roots if you cared to dig.

Positive LindaTX8 On Jul 30, 2009, LindaTX8 from NE Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

This species of Zanthoxylum is found in Texas and is smaller than Zanthoxylum clava-hercules and has many thorns along the leaves and twigs. The leaves can be numbing, more or less depending on the time of year. It is a host plant for the Giant Swallowtail. It is not easy to propagate from seed.

Negative NordicFletch On Jul 27, 2009, NordicFletch from Stanchfield, MN wrote:

ssustaire and sticher7... No worries on transplanting prickly ash, or losing one to a storm. They propagate by two methods: seed and (apparently) rhizome-type roots. I have prickly ash in my "yard" (40 acres of "woods" and "wetlands"), and they keep invading the areas where I well as keep coming back where I cut and rip them out (I try to keep them separate from my sumacs, and have had to dig out the horizontal "rhizomes" from my vegetable garden). They are nearly impossible to eradicate once they have taken hold....and they can spread very fast! The only reasons I allow these trees to grow at all is for the natural "security fence" (the thorns, of course) and the medicinal properties of the bark and RIPE berries (not the seeds, they are toxic!!!). The only tree I know of which is more frustratingly invasive is buckthorn..............

Wingnut, don't chew the leaves -- chew the bark. I haven't found any historical references showing that the leaves were ever used. There must be a good reason for that....

Neutral stitcher7 On Jun 21, 2009, stitcher7 from Anna, TX wrote:

Sadly, the storm that came thru Collin County, TX on 6/10 wiped out our 'numb gum tree' which was here before we built 29 years ago. It was covered with pea size green balls. I saved a bunch, there's still more attached to the remains in the field behind us. There's still 6-8 ft of trunk standing, which now that I've done some research, I'll watch to see if any babies come up from the base. I'm hoping that maybe I can start some from the seed balls. Hate to see an old native get wiped out, it was a pretty tree.

Positive broncbuster On May 9, 2008, broncbuster from Waxahachie, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I have one of these beautiful trees on my property and I love it! Fire ants have made their home in it's trunk and they are doing major damage. It's an old tree and for the 3 years I've lived here, every summer green japanese beetles and butterflies swarm this tree as it secreets sap. It will be sad to see it go.

Neutral ssustaire On Mar 31, 2005, ssustaire from Ore City, TX wrote:

I found this odd tree growing in the woods behind our home. I have been told that it is ok by the owner if I transplant one to my own property. Where it is there are about 10-15 growing, all diferent ages. The older ones have more smooth bark, as if the spikes kind of grow off, or into slight bumps. Any thoughts on transplanting one? I think it has such aesthetic beauty and a strange grace & dignity about it.

Positive Lindell On Jul 21, 2004, Lindell from Belton, TX wrote:

I live in Bell County, about 4 miles west of Belton on Sparta Road. I have a large "tickle tongue" tree growing just inside my property line. I've told my brother and a friend and they thought I dreamed up the term "tickle tongue tree". Thanks

Positive Aimee On Jun 1, 2002, Aimee from Georgetown, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

The leaves are a nice glossy green, and if you bruise them or cut with your fingernail, you will be rewarded with a nice smell. But if you chance to stick yourself with one of the prickles, it will cause a painful reaction for months. The Prickly Ash makes an attractive shrub and does not appear to be bothered by pests.

Neutral Wingnut On May 30, 2002, Wingnut from Spicewood, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

If you chew the leaves of this tree your tongue and lips will be numbed slightly, hence the names "Tickle Tongue Tree" and "Toothache Tree". Native Americans used this tree for that very purpose ~ numbing a toothache.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Hope, Arkansas
Morrilton, Arkansas
Apopka, Florida
Bartow, Florida
Brooksville, Florida
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Avon, North Carolina
Anna, Texas
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas (3 reports)
Brownwood, Texas
Cleburne, Texas
De Leon, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Grapeland, Texas
Helotes, Texas
Irving, Texas
Lampasas, Texas
Moody, Texas
New Caney, Texas
Ore City, Texas
Rowlett, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Spicewood, Texas
Waxahachie, Texas
Mazomanie, Wisconsin

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