Devil’s club is a species of the temperate rain forests of the North American west coast, where it grows in the shade of giant old conifers. In the wild it is an erect shrub reaching 5 metres, spreading gradually to form large thickets. At the ends of the shoots there are large decorative leaves divided into finger-like lobes; in autumn there are showy bunches of red berries.
Devil’s club lives up to its name, the whole shrub being protected by awesome thorns. The native peoples of North America believed that devil’s club had magical properties: the thorny stems were used to keep away witches, but also to beat suspected witches to produce confessions. Nowadays it is known that devil’s club can be used to make an invigorating ginseng-type of drink, so it has become rather rare in the wild.
The plants at Mustila grow in the moist ground at the bottom of Alppiruusulaakso (Rhododendron Valley), as well as among the rhododendrons. They provide a good contrast to the rhododendrons’ foliage and sometimes even steal the limelight, for instance in spring when their leaves unfurl, and again in autumn when the red berries ripen.