Devil's Claw in the University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Vegetable Demonstration Garden.

12 Interesting Facts About Devils Claw

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Introduction

The Devil’s Claw plant (Proboscidea parviflora) is a fascinating desert plant ((https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/beauty/Sky_Islands/plants/Proboscidea_parviflora/index.shtml)) used for centuries by Native American tribes. With its unique appearance and variety of uses, it’s no wonder it has earned such an ominous name.

In this article, we’ll explore 12 interesting facts you may not know about the Devil’s Claw plant, including its physical features, traditional uses, growing requirements, and more. Read on to learn what makes this desert dweller so devilish!

Interesting Facts About Devils Claw Plant

1. Its Distinctive Seed Pods Earned Its Name

The most striking feature of the Devil’s Claw plant is its seed pods. As the pods mature and dry out, they split open into two sharp, curved “claws.” These claws latch onto passing animals, using them to disperse the seeds far and wide.

2. The Pods Were Traditionally Used to Decorate Baskets

Native American tribes like the Tohono O’odham collected and used the woody black claws in their basket-weaving designs. The contrast of the black claws against lighter fibers created beautiful patterns.

3. Early Pods Can Be Eaten Like Okra

While mature seed pods aren’t edible, the young soft pods can be harvested and cooked or pickled similar to okra. They were a traditional food source for Southwestern tribes.

4. It Has Lovely Flowers

Before developing its signature devilish pods, Devils Claw produces attractive tubular flowers in shades of pink, magenta, yellow, red, and white. These blooms appear from August through October.

5. The Plant Is Covered in Sticky Hairs

The leaves, stems, and seed pods are all covered in tiny sticky hairs that give it a slightly unpleasant, resinous feel. These help catch insects and deter herbivores.

6. It’s Extremely Drought-Hardy

As a desert plant, Devils Claw is highly adapted to dry conditions. Once established, it only needs occasional deep watering to thrive through the hottest, driest conditions.

7. The Plant Follows the Sun’s Movement

Devils Claw exhibits heliotropism, turning its leaves and stems to follow the sun’s movement across the sky. This helps maximize sunlight exposure in harsh desert climes.

8. It Can Grow Over 3 Feet Tall

Given sufficient space and rainfall, Devils Claw can grow into a large, bushy plant up to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. However, plants are often smaller in drier areas.

9. It Grows Wild Across the Desert Southwest

Devils Claw grows wild across the hot, dry regions of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. It thrives in gravelly flats, sandy washes, and disturbed sites.

10. Tribes Cultivated Special Varieties

Some Southwestern tribes cultivated their own varieties of Devils Claw, selecting for traits like larger pods for basketry or tastier young pods for food. These domesticated varieties had some improved features over wild types.

11. The Seeds Are High in Protein And Oil

The seeds contain over 40% protein and 30% oil, making them a valuable food source. After removing the spiny pod, seeds can be roasted and eaten like nuts.

12. It Has Medicinal Potential

Modern research indicates that Devils Claw contains anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compounds, similar to conventional drugs. More studies are needed, but traditional medicinal uses show promise.

Conclusion

Whether you find it creepy or captivating, the Devils Claw plant has no shortage of unique traits. From its unusual life cycle to its variety of uses, this versatile desert plant continues to fascinate. If you’re looking for a distinctive addition to your garden, Devils Claw might just fit the bill. Just watch out for those wicked seed pods!


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