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Don’t Grow This Plant In Your Garden: Cat’s Claw

| by Lalith Gunasekera

( September 1, 2013, Queensland, Sri Lanka Guardian)  Cat’s claw (Dolichandra unguis- cati) is a vine with large, bright yellow bell shaped flowers in spring. It is a native of South America and introduced to Australia as a garden plant, especially for screening trellises and walls and has escaped to become a major weed of native forests and along rivers and creeks. It’s climbing woody stems cling to tree trunks, enabling it to grow into the forest canopy. Cat’s claw creeper competes with native plants by forming a dense above ground mat and numerous underground reproductive tubers.

Cat’s Claw flowers

Cat’s claw vine has are woody stem with numerous stems, generally up to 15 cm thick and can reach up to 20 meters. Thin and small aerial roots are used for climbing. The leaves are dark green, opposite and bi foliate. The leaflets have a length of 3 to 4 cm.

Cat’s claw Tentrills like cat’s claw

The plant’s name refers to a modification to the third leaflet, forming a three pronged tendril with stiff tips that form hooks. Tendrils are 10-35 mm long and aid in climbing. The plant produces flowers during the wet season. Flowers are yellow, have a diameter of 4 to 5 cm and can grow alone or in groups of 2 or 3. The fruits are brown flattened capsules from 25 to 95 cm long, produced from January to February. Each capsule contains 100-200 double winged seeds which provide the primary means of long distance dispersal. Cat’s claw creeper also produces numerous underground reproductive tubers (1000/m2) and can reproduce vegetatively, producing roots from nodes in the stems. Tubers also act as carbohydrate reserves that enable the plant to persist even if above ground vegetation dies back.

The major method of dispersal was traditionally thought to be wind, however riparian corridor spread patterns suggest water may be a significant dispersal agent.

Growing along a river

The impacts of this species on the community, environment and agriculture sector in Australia are enamours. This species is declared as a Weeds of National Significance (WoNS). There are several management exercise have been implemented and carried out over the years in different areas with the government commitment and coordination. Now there are 2 insects available to use as biological control agents in Australia. Thus the time is up to deal with this problem and needs to establish a coordinated approach via all relevant stakeholders and community groups act together with the government funding commitment.
Recognised the plant and keep it away from your garden

Smothering native vegetation

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