For Angelica

I was struck by the leafy beauty of the Angelica tree [1] which I came across at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the Virginia half of Assateague Island that we visited recently.

The trunk and petioles bear spines, a stem modification in defence from foragers, that makes it also quite deer resistant. The spines also gave it the common name of ‘devil’s walking stick’ or ‘prickly ash’.

Here below, is a botanical poem.

[Angelica tree, also called devil’s walking stick, Hercules’ club, or prickly ash, (species Aralia spinosa), prickly-stemmed shrub or tree, of the ginseng family (Araliaceae) (Encyclopaedia Britannica)]
[The Angelica tree can reach a height of 15 m (about 50 feet). Its leaves are large, with leaflets arranged feather-fashion and often prickly. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)]
Sweet Angelica, 
An overwhelm of your leafy
ramifications, waxed verdure
affections for a wayward wind.
My eyes caught the emerald glint;
now they glisten green
in a poetic apotheosis.

Should I deem you guilty
that 'twas the devil's walking stick
that sired you,
as virid envelope,
so delicate that every leaflet
would blend to a fine herb repast.

So I brave your prickly defences
in my manner of white tailed deer
and nibble of your leafy poetry.
A half mouthed curse that you sting
but your arbour rose
where none grew and I thought
you bloomed especially for me.

Rhizomes spiralled for life,
and the taste of muddied rain.
Other wanderers tried pillage
those jejune early fronds and
you recoiled in thorny armament,
a conflicted poetry I read on you.

Look at you now ...
largest leaf than any other in a North wind,
towering panicles that draw
a chorus of winged angels, quills.
These be the battlements of love
that will shed for life, in beauty

for when Summer leaves, there'll be Fall,
then the long rest of seasons.


Devil’s walking stick ~ Aralia spinosa is commonly called devil’s walking stick and gets its common name from the stout, sharp spines found on its leaf stalks, stems and branches [2]

Prickly defences ~ The spines on the trunk are relatively stout, sharp and often arranged in curvilinear patterns around it’s  surface. In addition, large petiole-scars persist on it. The branches are rather stout, terete, spiny, and either light gray or light brown. Like the trunk, they also have persistent leaf-scars. The leaves are glabrous and sometimes spiny on their undersides.  [3]

Largest leaf ~ The tree is crowned at the top by umbrella-like canopies of huge compound leaves. Alternate, bipinnate to tripinnate, medium to dark green leaves grow 2-5 feet long and 2-4 feet wide, with individual leaflets (2-4” long) having toothed margins [4] The doubly or triply compound leaves are the largest of any temperate tree in the continental United States [5]

Panicles ~ The flowers are large, terminal, white panicles (loose branching cluster of flowers) that produce black berries in the fall. The flowers are attractive to may bee species and the fruits that are formed are important to birds as well. Not a plant for the garden, per se, but an interesting plant for naturalizing in woodlands or to grow in challenging locations [6]The inflorescences are compound panicles of floral umbellets. The abundant berries are eaten by such birds as the Cedar Waxwing, White-Throated Sparrow, Swainson’s Thrush, and Wood Thrush. [3]