Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pollinator’s Delight

Two years ago, in 2014, I wrote about finally having a bloom on my devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa). Shortly after it started to bloom, the stem snapped in a summer storm and the flowers withered and died. Last year, much to my dismay, the same thing happened. My husband started to tease me about how could such a plant exist in nature.

Viceroy and bees and wasps

This year, the plant put out four inflorescences. Would this give me four times the heartache or a better chance at seeing one make it through? Well, you know by now that the answer is B, but I still had to suffer for a while. A storm came through and took out one of them. We were down to 3. A week later, another storm came and a second one failed the test.

Tiger swallowtail goes inside the inflorescence
I’m happy to say that two of them have continued to remain in place and this week has been fantastic! We’ve had unbelievable amounts of bees, wasps, and butterflies. It has been especially popular with tiger swallowtails.

The plant almost overhangs the swimming pool (not quite), and I had to fish out 5 honeybees from the water. I think they were too drunk to think straight. Two large somethings (wasps?) were so excited that they dropped to the concrete and consummated their love on the spot!

Viceroy and others

As we swam in the pool, enjoying the happy spectacle of this pollinator’s delight, a large orange butterfly could be seen nectaring from the flowers. I ran inside to get my camera, excited at the prospect of a monarch stopping by.

Actually, it was a viceroy, the first time I’d ever seen one. In addition to the tiger swallowtails, I’ve seen quite a few silver-spotted skippers too.

Aralia spinosa on a wild roadside, short and suckering
This plant is not for everyone. It can be a thug. It started suckering in 2014 after the first branch broke. I have potted up a few suckers but mostly I just pull them up now – about 3-4 per year. If you’ve got a bit space, especially next to a stream, you’ll make a lot of insects happy to plant one.

Now to look forward to the fruit display ....


  1. Mine (as you know) was huge--so tall it bloomed right outside my office window on the highest level of my house. So I got to watch the top come out of it up close -- and year after year. But it's a terrific plant and I'll be trying again when I get to start planting the new garden this fall!

  2. Glad that the pollinators are enjoying the feast!It is amazing how many insects cover the blooms. DWS grows abundantly on our property, mostly at the woodland edge and fortunately we have the space for it to spread as much as it wants. We had one reseed in one of our flower beds in the front garden and we have allowed it to grow there. I love them.

  3. I'm googling this plant next to see how much sun it needs. Any plant this pollinator friendly should be in my yard, too (hope I have enough sun...) Congrats on your patience!

  4. I have seen Devil's Walking Stick at Panola Mountain state park. For the first time, I noticed the blooms this year!

  5. I've halfheartedly thought about trying out a devil's walkingstick in my garden, but never gotten further than that. After your report of the pollinators it attracts, I think I'm going to have to get more serious about finding one and experimenting with it. Thanks for this post.

  6. So... does your Aralia sucker like sumac, and locust?
    I had a natural aralia in my previous garden, and like you, appreciated the wildlife... but... those sprouts...
    I saw a viceroy last week too... they show up at my house at the same time as the ripe pokeberries... Forgot to save the pics to the memory stick though...

    1. It didn't sucker until the first time that the storm snapped the top. I have potted up a few suckers and pulled up others. They haven't been too bad overall.