B. Rosie Lerner
Consumer Horticulturist







Question and Answer

Q. I have attached a tree photo that no one seems to know what it is. It has the berries at the top, and branches with leaves, and I did not notice until the leaves fell off that it had thorns on it. It does not have the berries on it until it gets big or old. I have 2 more small ones, but did not notice berries on them.

A. This large shrub or small tree is Aralia spinosa , more commonly known as Devil's Walkingstick or Hercules' Club . The whitish flowers appear in mid summer as you've described, at the tips of the branches. Purplish-black fruits appear and follow the flowers in late summer into fall and either fall to the ground or are eaten by birds soon after ripening. This species generally reaches 10-20 feet tall, though it can get up to four times this size! It is native as far north as southern Indiana and seems to adapt well to just about any environment. It can form a thicket by sending offshoot branches up from the base and, with those wicked spines, no person or animal will be likely to get through!

Q. I planted a row of about 40 wild cedar trees along our fence line to assure us privacy in the future. They were about 3 to 4 feet tall when I planted them and now, several years later, they are about 12 to 15 feet tall and most of them are beautiful. The problem is that some of them have ends that are turning brown and drooping (like a blight), and this is stunting their growth and making them appear deformed, especially on the tops. Should I spray them with a fungicide (there is no sign of insects), or should I cut the infected ones down before whatever it is spreads to the healthy trees? The strangest thing is that, even though they are infected, they are still putting on some new growth.

A. The term "cedar" is used to refer to a number of unrelated species, and their problems can be quite distinct. It is difficult to pin down a specific cause without knowing more information about the actual species of plant, as well as more detailed information on the symptoms. Fungicides are only effective against certain fungal diseases and provide no relief from insect pests. Likewise, insecticides are only effective against certain insect species and provide no relief from disease organisms. So you need to get the problem properly diagnosed before a control strategy can be recommended. Your best bet is to bring a sample of the damage to your the Purdue Extension office in your county for advice on diagnosis and treatment, if warranted. In Lawrence County, call 812-275-4623. You'll find contact information for all of the Purdue Extension county offices at

Q. Do you have a precaution we can take to protect our young ash trees? I have read they can be treated with an injection beforehand -- at present the ash borer is in the county to the east of us. And where can we find someone to treat them.

A. I'm so glad you asked, as I'm sure many folks around the state have the same question on their mind. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a devastating insect pest that has killed millions of ash trees in Michigan and has been confirmed in at least 12 Indiana counties. There is an insecticide called Merit® that can be applied as a soil drench (does not need to be injected) around the tree to provide protection to healthy trees before they are attacked. The Purdue University Entomology Department has a very informative EAB Web site that details how to identify, protection/control strategies, current known locations of this pest and alternative tree species for replacing ash trees.

There is now a statewide (Indiana) quarantine on ash trees and their wood products. Most ash products, including nursery stock; ash logs; untreated ash lumber with the bark attached; any type of firewood except pine; and any composted or uncomposted wood or bark chips that are 1 inch or larger cannot leave the state without written permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox,