- Cat’s Claw Plant Care: How To Grow Cat’s Claw Vines
- Cat’s Claw Plant Information
- How to Grow Cat’s Claw Vines
- Uncaria guianensis CAT’S CLAW (10 seeds)
- Cat’s-Claw Vine, Dolichandra unguis-cati—A Showy but Invasive Plant in Florida1
- Scientific Name
- Common Names
- Horticultural Uses
- Weed Problem
- Distribution in Florida
- Similar Native Vines
- Other Climbing Vines with Large, Showy Flowers and Opposite Leaves
- Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California
- Controlling Cat’s Claw: How To Get Rid Of A Cat’s Claw Vine Plant
- Controlling Cat’s Claw Vines
- How to Get Rid of a Cat’s Claw Vine Plant
- How is Cat’s Claw Used?
Cat’s Claw Plant Care: How To Grow Cat’s Claw Vines
What is cat’s claw plant? Cat’s claw (Macfadyena unguis-cati) is a prolific, fast growing vine that produces tons of bright, vibrant flowers. It spreads quickly and is considered invasive in some places, but if you treat it right it can have a big payoff. Keep reading to learn more cat’s claw plant information, including how to grow cat’s claw vines and cat’s claw plant care.
Cat’s Claw Plant Information
Growing a cat’s claw vine is easy. The problem usually isn’t so much keeping it alive as keeping it in check. Cat’s claw plants spread through underground tubers and can often pop up out of the ground in unexpected spots. The best way to prevent spreading is to plant it in a restrictive spot, like between a wall and pavement.
Cat’s claw is winter hardy in USDA zones 8 through 12, and evergreen in zones 9 and above. It can reach 20 to 30 feet in length, as long as it has something to climb. It does well on trellises, but it’s known for its ability to cling to and climb almost any surface, including glass.
How to Grow Cat’s Claw Vines
Cat’s claw plant care is easy. The vines tend to prefer moist and well-drained soil, but they’ll do well in virtually anything as long as it’s not soggy. They like full to partial sun.
Propagating a cat’s claw plant is easy – it grows well from cuttings, and it can usually be started successfully from the seeds found inside its seed pods, which turn brown and split open in the autumn.
Collect the seeds and keep them dry until you want to plant them. Press them into a pot of growing medium, but don’t cover them. Keep the soil moist by covering it with plastic wrap – the seeds should germinate in 3 weeks to 3 months and can be transplanted to their permanent spot in the garden.
After that, the plant basically cares for itself, other than occasional watering. Pruning the vine can also help with keeping it more manageable.
Uncaria guianensis CAT’S CLAW (10 seeds)
Uncaria guianensis or cat’s claw is a tropical vine of the family Rubiaceae.
It is a climbing plant from Peru.
In Spanish, it is called Uña de gato which means cat’s claw because of the small claw-shaped stems at the base of its leaves.
Flowers are pink in the shape of balls.
Cat’s claw seeds are tiny and orange, they look like those of kratom.
It is a medicinal creeper from Peru, which grows on the pristine lands of the Amazon rainforest.
The plant is used in traditional medicine by the Ashaninka, an ethnic group from the Peruvian Amazon, to treat deep wounds, to relieve joint pain as well as Indian ginseng, bone pain and kidney problems.
Sowing seeds of Uncaria:
Sow your cat’s claw seeds in a box of peat previously moistened.
Do not cover them.
Water with a sprayer then cover the box with food film to keep moisture.
Lastly, place your cat claw plant culture in a bright, warm place.
Temperature must be at least 30 to 40 ° C.
Uncaria seeds usually germinate after 3 to 4 weeks.
– Very rare climbing plant.
– Has many medicinal uses.
– Unusual pink flowering.
Do not consume without medical advice.
Medicinal plant to grow under greenhouse or indoors.
Cat’s-Claw Vine, Dolichandra unguis-cati—A Showy but Invasive Plant in Florida1
Niels Proctor and Jason Smith2
Flowers and leaves of cat’s-claw vine. The 3-pronged “claws” that replace the terminal leaflet in each compound leaf are visible at the lower right.
Niels Proctor, UF/IFAS
Dolichandra unguis-cati (L.) L.G. Lohmann
cat’s-claw vine catclaw vine
cat’s claw creeper
Batocydia unguis-cati Bignonia unguis Bignonia unguis-cati Dolichandra kohautiana Doxantha radicans Doxantha unguis-cati
Cat’s-claw vine is a neotropical, climbing perennial that produces large and showy yellow flowers in the springtime. It is valued as an ornamental, particularly in dry areas, because it needs little water or care and can climb almost anything, covering fences and other structures with an attractive carpet of leaves and flowers. Unfortunately, the aggressive nature of the vine has made it a major weed in China, Australia, South Africa, and parts of the southeastern United States (Osunkoya et al. 2009).
Cat’s-claw vine is often listed in floras and guidebooks under the older name of Macfadyena unguis-cati, but it has recently been moved to the genus Dolichandra (Lohmann and Taylor 2014). The common name of the plant comes from its most distinctive feature: the cat-like “claws” that help it climb. The vine has opposite leaves that are usually compound and composed of a pair of leaflets with a 3-pronged tendril between them (Figure 2). The tips of each prong are curved, stiff, and so very sharp that they will catch on the individual ridges of a human fingerprint.
Close-up showing the sharp, hooked tips of the 3-pronged “claw.” Note the pseudostipules where the opposite leaves attach to the stem.
Niels Proctor, UF/IFAS
Cat’s-claw vine is native to the West Indies and to Central and South America. It was probably first brought to the United States as an ornamental, sometime early in the 20th century. The first record of the plant in Florida is from a specimen that was collected in Dade County, west of Miami, in 1957 (F.C. Craighead 17, FLAS 733071). The collection record does not indicate whether the introduction was thought to be by humans or by natural dispersal. The following year, two distinct specimens were collected on the main campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville (Erdman West, FLAS 732992; L.E. Arnold, FLAS 733363). In 1973, a collector who pressed a sample for the UF Herbarium noted that the plant had naturalized and become “a pest here” on the UF campus (F.G. Meyer / P.M. Mazzeo 13483, FLAS 1473044 & 1473055).
If grown on a sturdy trellis in full sun, cat’s-claw can produce a thick covering of leaves with many showy flowers. The vine has reportedly been used in California to cover cinder block walls and chain-link fences (UCD Department of Plant Sciences 2009). Growers should take care, however, to be sure that the vine does not escape and grow into other areas where it is not wanted. The aggressive growth of the vine can quickly cover and smother ornamental shrubs and other plants.
According to the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008), cat’s-claw vine is invasive and not recommended in the central zone in Florida. In the northern and southern zones it should be treated with caution and carefully managed to prevent it from escaping (counties listed by zone at ). Additionally, cat’s-claw vine is currently listed as a Category I invasive exotic by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC). Category I plants are defined as “invasive exotics that are altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives.” Cat’s-claw vine disrupts natural communities by climbing in the forest canopy and producing a thick blanket of vegetation that can smother trees and prevent sunlight from reaching plants below. Under certain conditions, the growth of the vine can be very aggressive. In Australia, multiple cat’s-claw vines have been observed to grow and fuse together over time to form a single mass resembling the trunk of a tree. One such trunk discovered in 2010 in New South Wales was reportedly “the diameter of a car tyre” and required two men to lift out the cut section after it was cut with a chainsaw (Anonymous 2010).
Cat’s-claw vine can climb up to 50′ high and produce flowers and fruit at the top of the forest canopy. The wind-dispersed seeds are released free of obstruction at a great height, allowing them to travel long distances. It was originally believed that the vines propagated vegetatively, through the spread of the root structures, but it is now thought that most new recruitment of vines comes from seed dispersal (Osunkoya et al. 2009).
Distribution in Florida
Reports from the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (http://www.eddmaps.org) show that cat’s-claw vine is found around several cities in central to northern Florida. The largest number of reports come from the Gainesville area, with smaller numbers of sightings in Ocala, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa. There are also reports of the vine in the greater Miami area. The vine is a weed in citrus groves in the mid-peninsular region from Brevard County west to Hillsborough County. Evidence suggests that the range of the plant is still expanding and that there are many more areas in Florida where it could become a problem. A climate study examining the habitats where cat’s-claw might spread in Australia and South Africa also found that virtually the entire peninsula of Florida (south of 30 degrees latitude) had high habitat potential for the vine (Rafter et al. 2008). An article written in 2005 warned that the vines were invading San Felasco Hammock to the north of Gainesville, “where their eradication may now be impossible” (Ward 2005).
During their brief bloom season in Florida, cat’s-claw vines are most noticeable and recognizable by their flowers, which are large, bright yellow, and very showy (Figure 1). The five petals on each flower are fused to form a trumpet shape, with three lobes on the lower lip and two lobes on the upper one. The flowers generally appear in early- to mid-April in Florida and can persist through the summer. The vine only flowers in full sunlight. While the flowers can be at eye level when the vine is grown on a fence, they are more often far above and well out of sight when the vine is growing in a forested area. The corolla tube drops off after pollination and, in forested areas, the flowers are seen more often on the ground than on the vine up in the canopy.
Outside of the blooming season, cat’s-claw vine is most recognizable by its climbing habit and by the blanket of vegetation it creates over other plants. The compound leaves that appear above ground level on the vines are opposite and generally consist of two leaflets with a sharply clawed tendril between them. The “claws” are most likely to be seen on the newer, actively growing tips of the vine, where they are helping it climb (Figure 1). Once the vine has progressed further up a tree and no longer needs to cling to a lower spot, the older leaves commonly lose the tendril and consist only of the two leaflets (Figure 3).
Ground-level identification of cat’s-claw is complicated by the fact that the early leaves that form on each stem do not have the distinctive claws and do not appear to even be compound. Each leaf in a ground-level pair has only a single blade, making it either a simple leaf or a unifoliolate leaf (i.e., a compound leaf that consists of only a single leaflet) (Boyne et al. 2013). The blade is ovate to elliptic and the margin has shallow, broad serrations. A forest invaded by cat’s-claw can have a dense carpet of plants in this “simple-leaved phase” that are capable of choking out all other low vegetation (Figure 3.5). Plants will remain in this phase for many years and continue to accumulate and store energy until they have the resources and opportunity to climb.
A carpet of ground-level cat’s-claw plants that have not begun to climb and bear only the simple (or unifoliolate) leaves.
Niels Proctor, UF/IFAS
The fruits of cat’s-claw vine are long, flattened capsules resembling string beans (Figure 4). They are initially bright green, but they dry to a dark brown and crack open to release around 50 seeds apiece. The seeds are brown and elliptic, with two papery wings that stretch out on either side (Figure 5). Each seed is roughly 4cm long by 1cm wide and only a few millimeters thick.
The long, slender fruits of cat’s-claw vine hanging from the stems. The fruits are initially green but dry to dark brown in late summer before opening to release the winged seeds.
Niels Proctor, UF/IFAS
The flattened seeds of cat’s-claw vine as they appear at the time of release. Each seed is only a millimeter or two thick. The light weight and the broad, membranous wings allow for effective wind dispersal.
Niels Proctor, UF/IFAS
The below-ground portion of cat’s-claw vine consists of a narrow taproot with a single swollen area that can be spherical or cylindrical (Figure 6). These swellings are sometimes loosely described as “tubers,” but they occur in the root, rather than the stem, and are therefore more analogous to the swollen, edible portion of a radish or a carrot. Each swelling is 1–2 cm in diameter and can store large energy reserves. One study that looked at several infested sites in Australia found an average density of over 1,000 of these swollen root masses per square meter of forest floor (Osunkoya et al. 2009).
Above- and below-ground portions of a cat’s-claw vine showing regrowth after being cut at ground level. The spherical swelling in the taproot contains the plant’s energy reserves.
Niels Proctor, UF/IFAS
Mechanical: Cutting the stem of cat’s-claw vine at ground level will immediately kill off any large growth existing in a tree canopy, but the vine can quickly regrow from its taproot. It is theoretically possible to exhaust the energy reserves stored underground by continually cutting off the new shoots, but the process would be very labor-intensive and could take years to succeed.
Chemical: Cat’s-claw vine is very susceptible to foliar herbicides, but large-scale application is almost impossible because the vine climbs trees and other plants that one would want to preserve. The UF Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants recommends cutting the vines and treating the stumps with a full strength solution of glyphosate to kill the below-ground portion (Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants).
Biological: Several promising biological controls for cat’s-claw vine are currently being developed. South Africa is currently experimenting with the release of a leaf-tying moth (Hypocosmia pyrochroma) that will attack the leaves, fruits and seeds of cat’s-claw vine (King, Williams, and Madire 2011). Other insects being used include lace bugs, leaf-mining beetles, and seed-feeding weevils. Scientists are also currently looking in Brazil for fungal pathogens that might have the potential to be biocontrol agents (da Silva, Barreto, and Pereira 2012).
Similar Native Vines
There are three native vines that are very similar to cat’s-claw vine and are found in similar habitats in Florida (Figure 7). All three vines have opposite leaves and large, brightly colored flowers with funnelform to salverform corollas.
Yellow jessamine Native. Flowers are bright yellow. Blooms in late winter and usually finishes blooming before cat’s-claw vine comes into bloom. Leaves are simple. Each leaf is roughly the same size and shape as a leaflet of cat’s-claw vine.
Crossvine Native. Flowers are reddish-orange. Blooms for a brief period in mid-spring. Leaves are trifoliate, with two leaflets and a central tendril, but the tendril has no sharp claws.
Trumpet creeper Native. Flowers are red to orange. Leaves are opposite and pinnately compound, consisting of 5 to 9 leaflets.
Native vines similar to cat’s-claw vine include yellow jessamine (top), crossvine (middle), and trumpet creeper (bottom).
Niels Proctor, UF/IFAS
Other Climbing Vines with Large, Showy Flowers and Opposite Leaves
There are several other vines found in Florida that do not have as strong a resemblance to cat’s-claw vine, but share the traits of opposite leaves and showy flowers. A few of the more common ones are:
Anonymous. 2010. “Giant cat’s claw discovered: Weed control worker stunned by massive creeper.” The Daily Examiner, Grafton, New South Wales, Australia.
Ward, Daniel B. 2005. Putting a Stop to the Cat-claw Vine Infestation in Gainesville. Wildland Weeds, Summer, 2005, 17.
This document is FOR323, one of a series of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2014. Revised June 2018. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
Niels Proctor, doctoral candidate; and Jason Smith, associate professor, School of Forest Resources and Conservation; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.
in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California
Form: A climbing vine.
Leaf retention: Evergreen but cold deciduous.
Growth rate: Rapid.
Mature Size: 25-30′ long.
Flowers: Yellow trumpet flowers 3-4″ wide. No fragrance.
Bloom: Spring, possibly summer. Each flower lasts one or two days. In full sun, more flowers bloom at one time, and the total bloom time may be two weeks. In full shade, the plant may bloom sporadically throughout spring and summer, most heavily in the spring.
Fruit: A seed pod, often 20″ long, green turning to brown, containing oblong, flat, winged seeds.
Leaves: Green leaves occurring in pairs.
Stems: Woody, root-forming at nodes wherever soil is touched. Three pronged, clawed tendrils located at intervals along the stem assist in vertical climbing. The claws damage surfaces such as stucco and shingles.
Roots: This plant has large underground tubers and above-ground roots called stolons. It is invasive in moist soil. It becomes highly invasive after hard rains. Grow in a container to prevent invasiveness. It is one of the most difficult plants to eradicate when not grown in a container.
Wildlife: Attracts bees and birds.
Toxic / Danger: Handling this plant may cause skin irritation.
Origin: Tropical America.
Happy Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day! This is one of my favorite meme’s. I love participating each month and I always look forward to seeing what my fellow garden bloggers have blooming in their gardens.
On another note, I got it. I thought I had escaped it completely. With such beautiful spring weather, it is just incomprehensible to me that I succumbed to it – the flu. Isn’t there a rule or law somewhere that states you can only be sick with the flu when it is cold and rainy outside? Not when it is gorgeous and sunny outside.
Thankfully, I am feeling better and was able to go outside (in my pajamas) to take pictures for April’s GBBD. The following flowering plants are in my backyard because I did not want to venture out in the front garden in my pajamas 😉
This is the first cluster of flowers this year on my Orange Jubilee (Tecoma x Orange Jubilee) shrub. Since it is located up next to my house, it usually does not suffer frost damage in the winter. Soon, the hummingbirds will be fighting over the blooms.Closely related to the Orange Jubilee, my Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans) is located along the back wall of my garden. It is covered in yellow flowers from April through November.I am extra excited about this one because these are the first blooms on my Whirling Butterfly Bush (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’). We planted this back in March.
Okay, technically this Cat Claw Vine (Macfadyena unguis-cati) is not planted in my garden, but in my neighbor’s. But, it is blooming in my garden, so that counts, doesn’t it? Cat Claw Vine does suffer frost damage in some locations in the winter, but quickly grows back. It can become invasive and so I would use caution when considering growing this vine. I cut back the portion that hangs over my fence about twice a year when it gets too close to my shrubs.Geraniums in our new vegetable garden. This was recently moved from our Children’s Flower Garden as it was being deconstructed.It is not very easy to see all of the yellow blooms that are covering both of my Mexican Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana), but they are lovely just the same. Although they are commonly grown as shrubs, they can also be trained as small trees as I have done here. In our area, they bloom off and on all year. I hope you enjoyed this brief visit to some of my flowering plants in the back garden. Please visit May Dreams Gardens for a list of other garden bloggers who are participating in Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. Now I’m off to visit my fellow garden blogger’s gardens to see what they have blooming…..
Controlling Cat’s Claw: How To Get Rid Of A Cat’s Claw Vine Plant
Cat’s claw (Macfadyena unguis-cati) is an invasive vine with yellow flowers. This vine has three claw-like prongs on it, thus the name. It uses theses prongs to cling to whatever it climbs, and to travel on the ground. While some people that practice alternative medicine use the vine for medicinal purposes, most think of it only as a pest.
Controlling Cat’s Claw Vines
The bright yellow, tube-like flowers are eye-catching and make the vine very distinguishable from other plants. This plant is very aggressive, partly because it has multiple ways of growing. When spreading on the ground, new plants can spring up from tubs under the earth. When climbing, it produces seed pods with winged seeds that fly to a new location to grow.
Controlling cat’s claw is a common concern of many gardeners. Because cat’s claw vines are so aggressive, they can quickly
take over plants and make it difficult for them to grow. This vine favors growing along the ground and in trees. If left alone, it can grow more than 50 feet.
Climbing in the tree ruins the tree’s health and, in some cases, can even kill it. When the vine spreads on the ground, it smothers grass, small bushes, and other low-growing plants, usually killing them as well.
How to Get Rid of a Cat’s Claw Vine Plant
Completely getting rid of a cat’s claw vine is very difficult; however, it can be done with patience. Weed killers and other forms chemical killers do not seem to have great results. The best way to get rid of it is pulling it down from trees, and digging up the underground tubers. This is a difficult task, but it is much easier when you catch the vine while it is young.
Climbing cat’s claw control requires that you check back regularly to make sure all the tubers are gone and no new vines are sprouting.
How is Cat’s Claw Used?
Cat’s claw may be bad for your garden, but it is great for your health. If you’re tired of fighting the vines, take advantage of its many medicinal values. Indians, medicine people, and shamans have used cat’s claw for medicinal reasons for years. To take it as medicine, the inner bark and roots are stewed in water and then the liquid is ingested. Note: Never begin an herbal treatment program without medical consent.
Here are a few things it can assist in healing:
- Respiratory infections
- Prostate problems
- Viral infections
- Menstrual problems
- Multiple sclerosis