Aralia elata

Common Name: Japanese angelica tree 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Araliaceae
Native Range: Eastern temperate Asia
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 12.00 to 18.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Birds
Other: Thorns
Tolerate: Drought, Clay Soil


Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, fertile, humusy loams, but tolerates a wide range of soils including rocky and clayey ones. Tolerates drought. Generally tolerates many urban pollutants. 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 elata commonly called angelica tree, is sometimes seen in the wild as a small upright tree growing to 20-40' tall. In home gardens, it is more often seen as a large shrub growing to 12-18' tall. It is noted for producing spiny, pithy, usually unbranched stems which are crowned at the top with a spreading umbrella-like canopy of huge, showy, bi-pinnate leaves (each to 2-4' long). Regardless of form, this is a rapid growing tree or shrub that contributes unique ornamental interest to the landscape. One leaf may contain as many 80+ ovate to elliptic leaflets (each to 3-4" long). Leaflets are medium to dark green with irregularly toothed margins. Foliage turns pale yellow to reddish purple in fall. Small, 5-petaled, white flowers (to 1/8” across) bloom in large, terminal, umbellose panicles (to 18” long) in late summer (August). Flowers are quite showy and very attractive to bees. Flowers are followed by clusters of fleshy, spherical, black drupes that ripen from late summer into fall. Drupes are quite attractive to birds. Angelica tree is native to Japan, eastern Siberia, Korea and northeastern China. It is very similar in appearance to U.S. native Aralia spinosa, except this Asian species may grow taller, has more pubescence on leaf undersides and has better winter hardiness (Michael Dirr).

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

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word meaning elevated.


Susceptible to leaf spots. Aphids and mealybugs may appear. Handling bark and roots may cause allergic skin reactions. This plant is considered invasive in portions of the northeastern United States and has the ability to escape cultivation.


Best utilized in infrequently traveled areas where contact with the plant spines is unlikely. 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. A unique specimen for shrub borders and woodland gardens, but use caution when considering it for the home landscape since it is known to escape cultivation and exhibit invasive tendencies.