Devil's Claw

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Devil's Claw (Proboscidea louisianica)

***** Location: Southwest USA
***** Season: Summer
***** Category: Plant


When I lived in Oklahoma during my teenagedom, there was a plant called "Devil's Claw". It was a weed. I was often getting one or two catching on my boots as I did day hikes on the mesa.
There is a plant from South Africa having the same common name but a different variety that seems to be a herbal remedy for arthritis.
The plants seed pod is very malevolent looking!
I always associate it with summer in the Southwest, USA


The rather sinister common name of "devil's claw" refers to the inner woody capsule which splits open at one end into two curved horns or claws. Each capsule contains about 40 black seeds which are gradually released when the claws split apart. They are also called "elephant tusks" and readily cling to the hooves of grazing animals or your shoes if you happen to step on them. In some areas of the southwestern United States they are a nuisance to sheep ranchers because they get entangled in the fleece.

In his fascinating book, Plants and Planet (1974), Anthony Huxley (son of Julian Huxley) eloquently describes the hitchhiking pods as "hookers." The fresh green pods (and dried black seed capsules) were important items in the cultures of many Indian tribes of the southwestern United States, and are still used to this day for food and in basketry.
The plant is also known as "unicorn plant," referring to the large, hornlike fruit before is has split open.

South American devil's claws (Ibicella lutea). In addition to the long, curved claws, the capsule body is covered with prickly spines. This is one of the world's most durable and ingenious hitchhikers. It can also be one of the most painful if you get a claw imbedded in your hand.

Green fruits of the pink-flowered devil's claw (Proboscidea parviflora ssp. parviflora) hang on the branches like curved bean pods or okra. They are cooked and eaten as a vegetable by several Indian tribes of the southwestern United States and Mexico. The name "unicorn plant" is derived from the unopened pods which have a single curved horn.

Major Topics To Be Discussed on theses links:
A Brief Introduction To Devil's Claws
Dispersal Of Devil's Claws By Big Animals
Devil's Claw Species In The Americas
Use Of Devil's Claws By Native Americans
Devil's Claws In Death Valley, California
Cultivation Of Devil's Claws
Where To Purchase Devil's Claws
References About Devil's Claws

Worldwide use


Die Teufelskralle - Harpagophytum procumbens

Die im südlichen Afrika beheimatete Teufelskralle wird schon lange von den einheimischen Völkern als Heilmittel gegen Fieber, Magen-Darmleiden und Schmerzen verwendet. Mittlerweile ist der Bedarf gerade in Deutschland so gestiegen, dass durch schonende Sammlung und Kultivierung der Bestand der Heilpflanze gesichert werden muß.

Plant of Southern Africa. Used as remedy against fever, stomach aces and pain. Used widely in German natural medicines against rheumatism.

Things found on the way

A page with pictures called HAIKU PLUS features the Devil's Claw.



devil's claw! the red clay also sticks to my boot

a snake suns on the gypsum outcrop -- devil's claw

devil's claw in the rat's nest -- dust devil

3 one-line haiku by Chibi


in the shadow
of the scarecrow
devil's claw

Geert Verbeke

Related words


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WHC Worldkigo Discussion Group

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