Japanese Angelica Tree

Aralia elataJapanese Angelica Tree Leaf
Ginseng Family (Araliaceae)
Broadleaf Deciduous Tree
Flowers: Jul–Aug
Fruits: Aug–Sep
Native Range: Russia, China, Korea, Japan

Introduction: as an ornamental plant

Mid-Atlantic Range & Habitats: Wood edges, open areas, and thickets, especially around urban areas. Common in the Philadelphia area, and found elsewhere in southeastern PA, in the vicinity of New York City and on Long Island. Becoming increasingly frequent in the Piedmont of northern Delaware.

Ecological Impacts

In the past, many records of Aralia north of Delaware and Maryland were attributed to introductions of the native A. spinosa from further south. Recently, however, the possibility has been raised that many of these records actually represent A. elata. In Philadelphia, it appears that A. elata is displacing Aralia spinosan in the forest understory of urban parkland along the Wissahickon Creek. The extent of this impact and the potential for hybridization between the two species are still unknown.

Quick ID

  • Leaf veins: Main lateral veins running all the way to the tips of teeth at the leaf margin
  • Inflorescence: Inflorescence shorter, typically 30–60 cm long, and WITHOUT a distinct central axis (often wider than long, with base usually surrounded by and even overtopped by foliage)

More ID Tips

Japanese Angelica Tree and Devil’s Walkingstick can be very difficult to distinguish in the field. Both species have spines covering most of the plant, compound leavesmade up ofmany leaflets, white flowers, black berries, and grow to a height of up to 10m. The structure of the inflorescence is the most obvious distinguishing character. Japanese Angelica TreeThe individual leaflets of A. elata tend to be larger (5–12 cm long) than those of A. spinosa (5–7 cm long), but there is considerable overlap. The leaflets of A. elata are mostly sessile or with a very short petiole, whereas the leaflets of A. spinosa usually have a distinct petiole, but this character is also variable.