Saturday, April 21, 2012

Genus: Zanthoxylum

I have three small, spiny trees of the genus Zanthoxylum in my garden. Two of the trees were sold to me under the common name Toothache Tree (Zanthoxylum hirsutum) and one was sold as Hercules Club (Zanthoxylum calva-herculis). The common names of these trees are often used interchangeably and my trees look very similar, so it is possible that I assigned the wrong scientific name to one or more of these trees based on the provided common name. Regardless of which trees I may have, they are highly recommended for wildlife habitats.

In the spring, the trees are covered with clusters of greenish yellow flowers. The tallest of my trees reaches almost 6 feet and had more flowers this year than in previous years. I was surprised to find that the flowers have a rather strong scent that reminds me of honeysuckle. Here are a few photos of the many insects that were swarming around the flowers recently.


Common Buckeye Butterfly


Several Red Admiral Butterflies fed on the flowers of the trees


A Hairstreak Butterfly rested on a shiny and thorny leaf


A native bee that I will not attempt to identify


Another native bee that will go unidentified and a ladybug beetle


Honeybee and a fly


And a wasp fed on the nectar of the flowers.


But that's not all...

The trees are host plants for the caterpillars of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. The caterpillars are not always easy to see because they are camouflaged to look like bird droppings, as seen in this photo from a couple of years ago. I have not seen any caterpillars yet this year, but I did see a Giant Swallowtail flying around the garden a few days ago.

And there's more...
The flowers produce small fruits that are a favored by birds. I have not had any fruits on my trees yet. Maybe this year will be the first since there were so many flowers.

But that's still not all...
Humans can benefit from trees of the genus Zanthoxylum. If you get a toothache, you can chew on the leaves or bark of the trees and your mouth will become numb. Just watch out for the thorns.

Look for these trees at native plant sales this spring. The North Central Texas Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas has had Toothache Trees at their plant sales for the last couple of years. This was the source of my trees. Their spring plant sale is April 21 at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Toothache Tree is not on their list of available plants this year, but maybe they will have some anyway.

13 comments:

  1. Wow...that is like the Swiss Army Knife of trees...so much bang for the buck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scott, it is a multipurpose tree and the thorns could poke you like a knife if you are not careful.

      Delete
  2. A very nice and useful tree in the garden. I have heard of it but don't remember seeing in available anywhere.

    On a personal note: We will be in Plano to visit family at the end of May and would love to see the prairie garden, even it's only a "drive by". I couldn't find an email for you so my email is stffox1@gmail.com.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shirley, the trees are common in wooded areas around here, often as an understory tree. I have seen them in a couple of local native plant sales and I have a feeling they all came from the same person's yard.

      I will send an email to you. You are welcome to drive by or stop for the 5 cent tour.

      Delete
  3. I loved how you kept saying - and there's more! Like a commercial. Well, you've sold me. I've never seen one of these, but if I ever run across one, I'll be sure to pick it up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My sales pitch worked HolleyGarden and I did not even list all of the uses for the tree. Apparently it is used as a herbal remedy for several ailments such as rheumatism, dyspepsia, dysentery, heart and kidney troubles.

      Delete
  4. I learn something new every time I visit your blog. Great photo of the swallowtail chrysalis.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Collagemama. Have you seen the Hercules Club trees at the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve? They are all along the trails. By the way, that is a swallowtail caterpillar. It disappeared a few days after I took the picture. I looked around and never saw a chrysalis.

      Delete
  5. I love your insect photography! Very Nice! I just love a plant that can fill a niche so well in an ecosystem. Truly Wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lucy. I am still a curious kid when it comes to nature. I used to keep my insects in jars. Now, I create habitats for the insects and photograph them.

      Delete
  6. Marilyn, I don't know where your comment went. Blogger does crazy things sometimes. I had to look up Anahuac Refuge. I was not aware of this place.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hello Michael, I very much enjoy your blog. As you might know, Zanthoxylum species are male or female. All of the flowers in your pictures are male (they have stamens, which are lacking in the flowers of female trees). If all the pictures are from one tree then perhaps one of your other trees is female. However, if these pictures are from all three trees, then they are all male and they will not bear fruit.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the info, Rufino. I did not know that there are male and female trees. I never paid much attention to the flowers because I assumed they were monoecious. That explains why I did not get any fruit. Those photos are from my two larger trees. I have one more that is still small. It tried to bloom this year, but I pinched the flowers off so it could use all of its energy toward growth. Thanks for the comment.

    ReplyDelete

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. Any comments that look like spam or link to a commercial venture will be deleted.

All content © Michael McDowell for Plano Prairie Garden 2009-2016. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.