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Zanthoxylum americanum
Zanthoxylum americanum at the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Zanthoxylum
Species: Z. americanum
Binomial name
Zanthoxylum americanum

Zanthoxylum americanum (sometimes spelled Xanthoxylum americanum), the Common prickly-ash, Common pricklyash, Common prickly ash or Northern Prickly-ash (also called Toothache tree, Yellow Wood, and Suterberry), is an aromatic shrub or tree native to central and eastern portions of the United States and Canada. It can grow to 10 meters (33 ft) tall with a diameter at breast height (DBH) of 15 centimeters (5.9 in).[1] It produces membranous leaflets and axillary flower clusters.[1] The wood is not commercially valuable, but oil extracts from the bark have been used in alternative medicine and have been studied for antifungal and cytotoxic properties.[1]



Originally described by Scottish botanist Philip Miller in 1768,[2] Zanthoxylum americanum is a member of the wide-ranging genus Zanthoxylum in the Rutaceae family, which includes many species with aromatic foliage. Miller, who spelled the name Xanthoxylum, described the plant in the eighth edition of his Gardeners Dictionary, as "grow[ing] naturally in Pensylvania [sic] and Maryland".[3]


The plant has membranous leaflets numbering between 5-11 and growing in opposite pairs. It has "axillary flower and fruit clusters".[1] The buds are hairy. Dark green leaves are bitter-aromatic, with crenate margins.[4][1] The berries begin red[4] and turn deep blue to black,[5] with stalked fruit pods.[1] Flowers are dioecious, with yellow-green petals.[6]

Distribution and conservation status

Zanthoxylum americanum berries

Rare in the South, it is more common in the northern United States.[1] It is listed as Endangered in Florida, Maryland, and New Hampshire; and as Special Concern in Tennessee.[7] It can be found in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Washington, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia in the United States, and in Ontario and Quebec in Canada.[7]

Butterflies that use Zanthoxylum americanum for a food source include the Thoas Swallowtail (Papilio thoas), Giant Swallowtail (P. cresphontes), and Spicebush Swallowtail (P. troilus).[4]

Medicinal use

Seedling drawing


An oil extracted from the bark and berries of the prickly-ash (both this species and Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) is used medicinally.[1][5] The extract may act as a stimulant, and historic medicinal use has included use "for chronic rheumatism, typhoid and skin diseases and impurity of the blood..." as well as for digestive ailments.[5] Grieve states, "The berries are considered even more active than the bark, being carminative and antispasmodic, and are used as an aperient and for dyspepsia and indigestion; a fluid extract of the berries being given, in doses of 10 to 30 drops."[5] The bark has been chewed for toothaches, and a tea from the berries has been used for sore throats and as a diuretic.[8]

Modern studies

There have been some modern studies of the oil's constituents and antifungal properties[9] and cytotoxic effects.[10] [11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Duncan, Wilbur H. and Marion B. Duncan (1988). Trees of the Southeastern United States. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0820314692.  
  2. ^ International Organization for Plant Information (IOPI). "Plant Name Search Results" (HTML). International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 2009-07-05.  
  3. ^ Miller, Philip (1768). The Gardeners Dictionary: Containing the Best and Newest Methods of Cultivating and Improving The Kitchen, Fruit, Flower Garden, and Nursery; As also for Performing The Practical Parts of Agriculture: Including the Management of Vineyards, With The Methods of Making and Preserving Wine, According to the present Practice of The most skilful Vignerons in the several Wine Countries in Europe. Together With Directions for Propagating and Improving, From Real Practice and Experience, All Sorts of Timber Trees (Eighth ed.). London: Printed for the Author.  
  4. ^ a b c "NPIN: Zanthoxylum americanum (Common pricklyash)". Retrieved July 3, 2009.  
  5. ^ a b c d Grieve, Mrs. M. (1931, revised 1973, republished 1996). Mrs. C. F. Leyel. ed. A Modern Herbal. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. pp. 70–71. ISBN 0880299215.  
  6. ^ Brown, Claud L.; L. Katherine Kirkman (1990). Trees of Georgia and Adjacent States. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. pp. 163–164. ISBN 0881921483.  
  7. ^ a b "PLANTS profile for Zanthoxylum americanum Mill. (common pricklyash)". Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved July 3, 2009.  
  8. ^ Foster, Steven; James A. Duke (1990). A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants: Eastern and Central North America. The Peterson Field Guide Series. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 238. ISBN 0395353092.  
  9. ^ N. Bafiyeboa. Antifungal constituents of Northern prickly ash, Mill. Phytomedicine, Volume 12, Issue 5, Pages 370-377
  10. ^ Ju, Yong; Dr Cecil C. Still, John N. Sacalis, Jiangang Li, Chi-Tang Ho (30 Jul 2001). "Cytotoxic coumarins and lignans from extracts of the northern prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)". Phytotherapy Research (John Wiley & Sons) 15 (5): 441–443. Retrieved July 3, 2009.  
  11. ^ Saqib, Q. N.; Y.-H. Hui, J. E. Anderson, J. L. McLaughlin (11 Jan 2006). "Bioactive furanocoumarins from the berries of Zanthoxylum americanum". Phytotherapy Research (John Wiley & Sons) 4 (6): 216–219. Retrieved July 3, 2009.  

External links


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids II
Ordo: Sapindales
Familia: Rutaceae
Subfamilia: Rutoideae
Genus: Zanthoxylum
Species: Zanthoxylum americanum


Zanthoxylum americanum Mill.


  • Gard. dict. ed. 8: Zanthoxylum no. 2. 1768
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Data from 07-Oct-06]. 42186


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