Devil’s Club

Plant Use(es):Dye, Food, Medicinal

Devil's Club fruits by Walter Siegmund

Devil’s club fruits – Photo by Walter Siegmund

Other common names: devil’s walking stick

Scientific name: Oplopanax horridus (Sm.) Miq.

Family name: Araliaceaea (aralia or ivy family)


Devil’s club is a tall deciduous shrub that can grow up to 3 meters tall. The stems of the shrub are thick and have yellow spines on them. The flowers are umbels of greenish-white flowers, and the fruits are bright red berries. It grows in the Pacific Coast of North America and in some areas in the Asian continent.


Devil’s club is a very important medicinal and protective agent for aboriginal peoples throughout its range. In Coastal British Columbia, it is one of the most important medicinal plants. The roots of Devil’s club were the most important part of the plant, used as a medicine for arthritis, ulcers, digestive tract disorders and diabetes.

General disclaimer: It is recommended that individuals seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally. The University of British Columbia is not responsible for any adverse effects that might result from the use of this plant.


Devil’s club was also used as a protective agent for many Aboriginal communities.The stems of the shrub were used as protective sticks and charms, and charcoal from burned devil’s club was used to make protective face paint for dancers and people who are vulnerable to evil influences. The light coloured wood of this perennial shrub was used to make fishing lures.


  • The Vancouver Island Nuu-chah-nulth made fish lures from peeled devil’s club stems, which were tied near fishhooks to snag the fish.
  • The Ditidaht has two different fish lures out of devil’s club: one lure to attract codfish to the surface before spearing them and a hoo attached to a line and used mainly for black bass fish.
  • The Haida First Nations used the stems of devil’s club as hooks to catch black cod and octopus.
  • The Hesquiat scraped the spines off the stems of the plant and boiled them with various berries in water to make paint for baskets and dyes.
  • The Salish and Ditidaht communities combined devil’s club with charcoal to make face paint for ceremonies and for inserting under the skin in order to get blue tattoos.
  • The Dena’ina burned devil’s club and mixed the ashes with water to get a black dye.
  • The Nuxalk First Nations used the roots and the stems as a cleasning emetic and purgative and in steam baths for rheumaism and stomach aches.
  • Cowlitz dried the bark and pulverized it for perfume or baby talc and as an infusion for cold. They also applied the bark on the body parts affected by rheumatism.


Devil’s Club can be found in the Southern part of Coastal British Columbia. It is found in open sites, especially common on disturbed sites such as along roads. It can also be found in open forests and is generally more abundant at low elevation.


Devil’s CLub can be found in the UBC Botanical Garden and Pacific Spirit Park.

For more information on Devil’s Club, visit E-flora:



E-Flora BC. (2013). Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia. Available at:

Pojar, J., and Mackinnon, A. (1994). Plants of coastal British Columbia: Including Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine Publishing.

Photo credits

Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from

Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from

Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from

Link to e-flora

One response to “Devil’s Club”

  1. Philippe Brulot

    Good morning,
    Thank you for posting this interesting page on the devil’s club.
    I am asking you for the permission to reproduce the content of this page for a lesson plan that will be shared with the district’s teachers. This is part of a project to show how we can implement the new curriculum.
    We will make sure to credit you for the content.
    P. Brulot
    District Principal
    Aboriginal Education, School District 43 (Coquitlam).

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