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Devil's club, is a plant with an unmistakable presence. It has leaves like palm fronds, spines like daggers and red fruit that's candy for bears. It sticks its long neck out as far south as Oregon, and to the east, has even surprised a few Michigan hikers with its cloak of vicious thorns. But the plant is perhaps most common to the bear, deer and salmon habitats of Alaska's Tongass National Forest.
Devil's club is reliably hardy to minus 20 degrees, though it's not all that tolerant of heat and sun. Gardeners who want to try it might keep in mind its natural habitat: damp forest floors with moist, acidic soil.
In Sitka, Alaska, one of the most revered members of the community is the thorny devil's club. But the plant's popularity as a medicinal may endanger its sacred role in Tlingit culture. NPR's Ketzel Levine reports. The Tlingit have turned to devil's club for a list of ailments you wouldn't wish on an enemy: from coughs and colds to stomach ulcers, tuberculosis and hypoglycemia. Tribe members steep it into teas, mash it into salves, chew, sip and steam it. It's also used to ward off evil. The plant, dubbed the "Tlingit aspirin" has not been approved for medicinal use by the Food and Drug Administration.