Zanthoxylum americanum

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Zanthoxylum americanum - Common Pricklyash, Northern Prickly Ash, Prickly Ash, Toothache Tree
Common name: Common Pricklyash, Northern Prickly Ash, Prickly Ash, Toothache Tree
Family: Rutaceae (Rue)
Distribution: E. US; E. Canada
Habitat: Upland rocky hillsides, moist lowlying sites, open woods, bluffs, thickets
Hardiness: -40 - 10 F
Life form: Deciduous tree
Bloom Time: April
Attracts: Birds, butterflies
Bloom characteristics: Green-yellow, fragrant flowers grow on old wood. Bloom before the leaves emerge.
Average height: 15-20'
Bark characteristics: Dark brown with prickles
Fruit characteristics: Round, red-brown, berry-like fruits mature in late summer and contain 1-2 black seeds per follicle. When the seeds mature they hang from the split capsules. .2" long.
Foliage characteristics: Compound, odd-pinnate, dark green leaves have 5-11 leaflets. Have sharp prickles. Leaves 1' long.
Medicinal/pharmaceutical: Some Native Americans chewed the bark or fruits of this plant for its numbing effect, to treat toothache. Parts of the plant were also used to create medicines for fever, cough, gonorrhea, rheumatism, induce miscarriage, treat pain after childbirth, and external wounds.
Dioecious: Yes.
Ethnobotanical uses: Fruit used as peppery spice in cooking. Young men of the Omaha tribe used the fruit as a perfume.
Fall color: Yellow
Description: The toothache tree looks similar to an ash, but is actually a member of the citrus family. This relationship is more noticeable in the plant’s scent than its appearance, as all parts of the toothache tree give off a lemony smell. The curious common name of the toothache tree comes from one of its many medicinal uses; many Native Americans in the plant’s range would chew the bark or berries of this plant if they had a toothache, for its numbing effect. This numbing quality is also found in a famous member of the Zanthoxylum genus - the Sichuan pepper tree. It is interesting how trees on opposite sides of the world can both have such similar numbing properties.
The toothache tree is Endangered in Florida, Maryland, and New Hampshire, and of Special Concern in Tennessee.
Links: GRIN Taxonomy - Simple Query Species DataMissouri Botanical Garden Plant FinderUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service


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