Accession Count: 5
Catclaw Acacia, Devil's Claw, Paradise Flower
The A. greggii is a large shrub or small tree that reaches heights up to 10 meters tall. The leaves are bipinnate and 1-3 inches long and have1-3 pairs of short-stalked pinnae, each with 6-14 leaflets. Spines on the stem, which are up to 1/4 inches long, are easily distinguishable from those of the other acacias by their curved claw-like shape. Fragrant cream-colored flowers occur in dense spikes up to 2 ½ inches long and about ½ inches wide. Reddish to light brown flattened pods are persistent on the tree from July through winter. The pods are slightly constricted between the seeds and are curved to form a "U" shape; they are about 5 ½ in long and 3/4 in wide. The seeds are up to 1/3 in long are dark brown and shiny.
The species name "greggii" honors Josiah Gregg (1806-1850), a botanist who eplored the southwestern US and northern Mexico. Its common name "catclaw" refers to the shape of the spines. In its natural habitat, it forms a very dense shrub with many branches that provide excellent shelter for birds and animals, because the "catclaw" spines make it very unpleasant for large animals (including humans) to walk through. Quail eat the seeds and both jack rabbits and cattle eat the leaves when a better alternative is lacking. As in the case of the White-thorn Acacia, introduced honeybees use the flowers' nectar to make honey. Flowers also attract other pollinators such as butterflies moths and wasps.
This tree provides many resources for desert-dwellers. It produces a legume called "vaina", which can be eaten fresh or ground into a meal to be made into porridge baked or even used as a coffee substitute. Historically, its young, unripe beans were an important food source for many southwest tribes. The seeds can be stored, roasted, or ground and made into bread. However, the mature seeds may contain a potentially poisonous cyanic glycoside called prunasin. The insect Tachardia lacca uses the tree's sap for food, and in turn releases a substance used as a source for commercial lac- an ingredient in lacquers. In addition insect pollinators are etremely fond of the fragrant acacia blossoms which are an essential source of nectar for honeybees. This fragrance is loved not only by insects, but also by indigenous women who carried dried buds and blossom in sachets as a type of perfume. The wood itself is valuable for fuel and for the construction of things such as baskets, hunting and fishing tools, fences, and furniture. It is used by the Seri people for various tools and weapons such as chisels, digging sticks, fish and turtle harpoons, and bows.
11 - 15 feet
16 - 20 feet