Prickly Ash, one of the common names for xanthoxylum Americanum (Gr. , yellow, and , wood), a shrub belonging to the rue family (rutacem), and quite common throughout the northern states ; its prickly stems and pinnate leaves have given it the name by which it is best known, and it is also called toothache tree and yellow-wood, the last being a name applied to several quite distinct plants. It is a shrub 5 to 10 ft. high, with prickly stems and compound leaves having four or five pairs of leaflets and an odd one, marked by pellucid dots which contain an aromatic oil. The small, greenish, axillary flowers are dioecious, and appear before the leaves with four or five sepals and petals, and in the sterile flowers the same number of stamens; the fertile flowers have two to five separate pistils, with their styles slightly united, ripening into fleshy two-valved pods with one or two seeds. All parts of the plant are pungent and aromatic, the leaves and fruit having a very strong lemonlike odor; the bark, which in the dried state is kept in the shops, has when chewed a sweet and aromatic taste, which soon becomes very acrid, and excites a copious flow of saliva. A peculiar principle called xanthopicrite is said to have been separated from it.
It is an active stimulant, increasing the perspiration and other excretions, and a tincture of the bark and berries has long been a domestic remedy for chronic rheumatism; the scraped bark has been used as a stimulant application to indolent ulcers, and the bark is sometimes chewed to relieve toothache. - The southern prickly ash is X. Carolinianum, found on the coast from Virginia southward; it has very sharp prickles, shining leaves, and flowers in a terminal cyme. Its properties are quite similar to the preceding. Other species are found in Florida and the West Indies, which have much the same taste and smell. The stems of X. clava Uerculis, one of the several trees called Hercules's club, have strong prickles, and are frequently brought from the West Indies as walking sticks. There are several oriental species, the berries of one of which are used for intoxicating fish.
Prickly Ash (Xanthoxylum Americanum). 1. Pistillate flowers and leaves of the natural size at flowering time. 2. Fruit of natural size. 3. Pistillate flower enlarged. 4. Staminate flower enlarged.