Wild Florida Photo
Nature Photography by Paul Rebmann
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A frequent shrub or tree of hammocks, wet woods, sand dunes and shell middens throughout much of Florida, more common near the coast. The range extends through the southeastern coastal states from Virginia to Texas plus Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Hercules' club can grow up to 17m (56 ft.) tall. The trunk usually has blunt spikes that give this plant its common name. The alternate, deciduous leaves are pinnately compound and 10-30cm (4 - 12 in.) in length with mostly seven to nine leaflets, but sometimes many more. Both the rachis and branches have sharp prickles. The glabrous leaflets are lanceolate with crenate margins and laterally unequal - being different sizes on each side of the central vein. Leaflets are 2.5-7cm (1 to 2-3/4 in.) long. Greenish-yellow flowers are borne in long clusters at the ends of the branches in spring and summer. Fruit is small, dry and rounded, splitting on only one side when mature.
Chewing the bark can have a numbing effect on the mouth, leading to another common name, toothache tree.