Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Common Prickly Ash, Northern Prickly Ash
Zanthoxylum americanum

Family: Rutaceae (roo-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Zanthoxylum (zan-THOK-sil-um) (Info)
Species: americanum (a-mer-ih-KAY-num) (Info)

6 members have or want this plant for trade.


15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
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)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From softwood cuttings
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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2 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Malus2006 On Mar 14, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

Here in the Twin Cities Northern Prickly Ash tend to be locally common, often located in floodplain and in certain swampy locations. They are easily identify by their thorns as in Minnesota thorny woody plants are rare - only wild roses are the other species but greenbriar - the thorny species - grows in the same habitation as Prickly Ash. During the growing season they can be difficult to id as they look like young ash species in their foliage.

Positive Hikaro_Takayama On Apr 19, 2006, Hikaro_Takayama from Fayetteville, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant grows wild in my area around a couple of old limestone quarries and along some limestone cliffs outside Williamson, PA. I transplanted a few trees that were growing in the area that the county mows every summer during late June last year, where we had a near-record drought, and the only watering the plants needed was the initial one when I transplanted them. They have thorns on the branches, but they are no worse than those of your average rose bush, and the glossy green foliage and interesting berries (that birds seem to like) are well worth it. The shrubs/small trees will spread by roots, much like a lilac or elder, so that in time they form a nice hedge/small grove. They also tolerate extremely dry limestone soil as well as damp clay soil and are estremely drought tolerant, so I reccomend them for landscaping in difficult areas of your yard. According to several botanical publications, and my own experience, the trees like full sun to partial shade, but do not do not tolerate full shade....


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

Clermont, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Detroit, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Ney, Ohio
Berwyn, Pennsylvania
Greencastle, Pennsylvania
Elmwood, Wisconsin

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