Acacia greggii Gray var. greggii

by Hillary Sellmeyer, Native Plants Class
Common names:
Cat‘s claw, tear blanket, devil‘s claw, una de gato, wait-a-minute, Gregg’s catclaw (4).
Family: Fabaceae.
Synonymy: Acacia greggii Gray var. arizonica Isely (7).
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) (7).

Life history:
Cat‘s claw is a perennial with an average life span greater than 100 years (2).
Native/introduced: Native (7).
Photosynthetic pathway:
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).

: 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 fruits (5).

1. Benson L, Darrow RA. The Trees and Shrubs of the Southwestern Deserts. 2nd ed. Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press; 1954. 148-156 p.

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 ( 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.