Aralia chinensis
Common Name: Chinese angelica tree 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Araliaceae
Native Range: China, Vietnam, Malaysia
Zone: 7 to 10
Height: 12.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 12.00 to 20.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: Off-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Other: Thorns
Tolerate: Deer

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10 where it is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, fertile, humusy loams. Best sited in areas sheltered from strong winds to help protect the large compound leaves. Easily grown from seed, division of suckers or root cuttings. Plants will spread somewhat rapidly by self-seeding and suckering to form thickets. Promptly remove root suckers to prevent unwanted naturalization.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Aralia chinensis, commonly known as Chinese angelica tree, is a deciduous, suckering, spiny-stemmed small tree or large shrub that typically grows to 12-20’ (less frequently to 30’) tall. In home gardens, it is more often seen as a large shrub growing to 15’ tall. It is native to woodland stream banks and slopes in China.

Huge showy bi-pinnate compound leaves (each leaf to 3’ long and 2’ wide) form a shrub-covering canopy of foliage. Each leaf contains ovate to broad-ovate pale gray-green leaflets (5-13 leaflets per pinna) which turn yellow in fall. Small off-white flowers bloom in large inflorescences in late summer to autumn. Each inflorescence is a terminal panicle of umbels, with each umbel having 20-50 tiny flowers (to 1/8” across). Flowers are attractive to bees. Flowers are followed by clusters of fleshy, spherical, dark purple-black drupes which ripen in fall. Drupes are attractive to birds.

Some botanists classify this shrub/tree as a form of Aralia elata from which it is primarily distinguished by the elongated main axis in its inflorescence and its shorter stalked leaflets.

Genus name comes from the Latinization of the old French-Canadian name of aralie.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word meaning elevated.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to leaf spots. Aphids and mealy bugs may appear. Handling bark and roots may cause allergic skin reactions.

Garden Uses

Best utilized in infrequently traveled areas where contact with the spiny plant stems will be less likely to occur. Plants can appear coarse in winter, but the compound foliage, late-summer flowers, black fruit and general plant habit lend diversity and ornamental interest during the growing season. This is a good plant for shrub borders, woodland margins and remote areas of the landscape where it can be allowed to spread.