Straight blackthorn stems have traditionally been made into walking sticks or clubs (known in Ireland as a shillelagh).
In the British Army, blackthorn sticks are carried by commissioned officers of the Royal Irish Regiment; the tradition also occurs in Irish regiments in some Commonwealth countries.
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Blackthorn walking sticks are among the most sought after of all traditional walking sticks: for their appearance, heritage and scarcity.
The blackthorn, or Prunus Spinosa, is a shrubby bush with vicious thorns and a suckering habit, so that it forms dense hedges through which livestock cannot escape. It grows particularly well in Ireland and England, where blackthorn sticks cut from hedges have been popular for many centuries.
The bark of the blackthorn walking stick can be any colour from reddish-brown through to almost black. The spines, which can cause extremely sore poisoning if the stick cutter impales his hand on them, are cut back and sanded to produce a distinctive stick.
A particular characteristic of blackthorn is that the arrangement of the thorns forms a spiral shape around the shaft of the stick. On the very best blackthorn sticks, it is possible to see that the thorns are arranged in little groups of three.
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