greggii Gray var. greggii
Sellmeyer, Native Plants Class
Common names: Cat‘s claw, tear blanket, devil‘s claw,
una de gato, wait-a-minute, Gregg’s catclaw (4).
Synonymy: Acacia greggii Gray var. arizonica
Etymology: The Genus Acacia stems from the Greek word
“akis,” meaning “sharp thorns.” The epithet refers
to Josiah Gregg, the man responsible for discovering this species (8).
Growth form: Cat‘s claw is a large branched shrub, or small
tree attaining an average height of 12 feet.
Roots: The root system of Cat’s claw consists of
a tap root and lateral roots. The depth of the tap root is dependent upon
the type of ground material. Acacia root systems adapt to a variety of
mediums ranging from shallow soil to deep sand. Roots contain nitrogen
fixating nodules formed by bacteria (7).
Stem: Braches arise from a gray woody trunk. Twigs are
gray with curved, solitary stipular spines up to .25 inch in length (6).
The bark is reddish-brown and thin.
Leaves: Grayish-green, alternate, bipinnately compound
leaves. Blades are one to three inches long. Each blade axis has 8 to
12 leaflets (.25 inch long). Leaflets are oval with entire margins. Terminal
leaflets are lacking. .
Inflorescence/flowers: Flowers are pale yellow to cream
colored. Inflorescences are in dense cylindrical spikes (2.5 inches long),
and are found near the branch ends.
Fruit: The fruit is a linear to oval legume (2-6 inches
long and .5 inch wide). The pod may be turbid or smooth.
Similar species: Acacia constricta Benth. var.
constricta is native to the United States. It grows in Arizona
east to Texas, as well as parts of Virginia and Maryland. Acacia greggii
is distinguished from A. constricta by curved spines up
to .25 inches long (vs. linear spines 2 inches in length on A. constricta)
Life history: Cat‘s claw is a perennial with an average
life span greater than 100 years (2).
Native/introduced: Native (7).
Phenology: Cat‘s claw blooms from April to October.
The fruit matures between July and September (2, 4). Seeds are dispersed
by the wild animals that eat them. A waxy seed coat delays germination
for a few years.
Distribution: California to New Mexico, south to northern
Mexico and east to Texas. Cat‘s claw is most commonly found in gravelly
washes and canyons below 5000 feet (3,7). In Arizona, Cat’s claw
is found in Coconino, Mojave, Navajo, Apache, and Gila Counties in desert
grasslands and chaparral(1).
Ethnobotany: The fruits of Cat’s claw are used as a poultice
for sore muscles. Tea made from the fruits, leaves and bark is used to
ease diarrhea, dysentery, and stomach ulcers. Meal is also made from the
Benson L, Darrow RA. The Trees and Shrubs of the Southwestern Deserts.
2nd ed. Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press; 1954. 148-156
2. Bowers JE. Shrubs
and Trees of the Southwest Deserts. Tucson: Southwest Parks and Monuments
Association; 1993. 47 p.
3. Crittenden M. Trees
of the West. Millbrae: Celestial Arts; 1977. 157-158 p.
4. Epple AO. A Field
Guide to the Plants of Arizona. Guilford: The Globe Pequot Press;
1995. 104 p.
5. Moore M. Los Remedios:
Tradtional Herbal Remedies of the Southwest. Sante Fe: Red Crane Books;
1995. 58, 80 p.
6. Stuart JD, Sawyer
JO. Trees and Shrubs of California. Los Angeles: University of California
Press; 2001. 130 p.
7. USDA, NRCS. 2002.
The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov).
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
8. Vandyke-Leake D,
Leake JB, Leake-Roeder M. Desert and Mountain Plants of the Southwest.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press; 1993. 68 p.