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)





Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Grown for foliage


Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


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:

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


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

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Dec 26, 2018, CraftyFox from Kimberly, WI wrote:

I think you will find this tree to be rather shade tolerant, as I often find it lurking under Riparian forest canopy, in Dolomite clay. However, those that receive more sun have better fruit set, with well shaded ones bearing scant amounts. When I find this, it is almost never alone.. Often part of a large radiating colony of suckering growth.

Would love to hear about those with experience trying to hedge this.

This is also a traditional spice and medicine plant worth researching. The epicarpic husk offers a wonderfully sharp biting citrus flavor that is quite a unique experience. I use it dried, in a pepper grinder, with similar occasion.


On Dec 1, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

This usually large shrub is not really grown in most nurseries, just a few native nurseries. It is good for a naturalistic landscape. It is native from New England thru the southeast tip of Ontario to the edge of North Dakota down to east Kansas and much of MO, IL, IN, MI, and OH, and scattered spots in the Mid-Atlantic and the South. It is fast growing of about 2 to 3 feet/year and ground suckers a lot. It bears bright red berries in August - September that are good for birds and small mammals. It gets a yellow fall color. Its twigs are armed with small stout prickles.


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.


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 toleran... read more