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)





Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade




Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone


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:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Hope, Arkansas

Morrilton, Arkansas

Apopka, Florida

Bartow, Florida

Brooksville, Florida

Dunnellon, Florida

Fruitland Park, 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

Lindale, Texas

Moody, Texas

New Caney, Texas

Ore City, Texas

Rowlett, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Spicewood, Texas

Temple, Texas

Waxahachie, Texas

Mazomanie, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jan 16, 2019, RaineC from San Antonio, TX wrote:

We have a specimen at the Jackson Nature Preserve in Wilson County, Texas. I am preparing to go get root samples. I am having difficulty determining the flower difference between the male and female. I do not know if the specimen is male or female, and I would need to get the opposite sex just to keep it propagating. I am restoring a historical cemetery plot of an old historical ranch.

San Antonio, Texas.


On Jun 4, 2018, FlaFlower from Titusville, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

The general overview information is terrible, way off base in so many ways, this is why Davesgarden has lost all credibility.
The reason I know longer pay for a subscription, nothing can be trusted here anymore.


On Jul 15, 2016, Sedary2 from Lindale, TX wrote:

We have these trees on our place. The livestock will test them out, both leaves and bark, but that's it! Once is enough by one and news spreads. Consequently they grow everywhere and seed quite easily. The birds eat the fruits then they sit in hardwood trees and deposit the seeds under those huge oaks. Thus, the Neutral rating due to this particular tree's proliferation. Other than that, they are a plus. My dad who was born in the early 20's remembers using the bark for toothaches and introduced us to it when we were growing up. It's very sad to see some of these trees which are located along highways totally stripped of their bark. This kills the tree and I am saddened to think someone thinks more of their pocketbook than they do the tree and breaking the law by trespassing. For th... read more


On May 24, 2015, alexgr1 from Dunnellon, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I make so many trades that I have no idea how I ended up with this beautiful little tree. I know it must have come from the beautiful State of Texas. It will be trained as a bonsai. The minute I have to cut some little branches I will root them for trades. For the moment I won't even add it to my haves for its size.


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 an... read more


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,


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??


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


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.


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.


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.


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... read more


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.