Synonym(s): Macfadyena unguis-cati
Family: Bignoniaceae (Trumpet-Creeper Family)
Duration and Habit: Perennial Vine
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High-climbing woody vine, with stems to 6 cm (2.4 in) in diameter and roots becoming elongate-tuberous with age. Branches and runners with adventitious aerial roots. Leaves opposite, compound, with 2 leaflets and a terminal 3- forked tendril; tips of tendril forks stiffly hooked, clawlike. Leaflets mostly 3-7 cm (1-3 in) long, oval to lance shaped, with margins entire. NOTE: However, young seedlings have simple leaves with slightly toothed margins. Flowers showy, trumpet shaped, to 7 cm (3 in) long and 10 cm (4 in) across, solitary or in few-flowered clusters at leaf axils; petals joined into yellow floral tube with orange lines in the throat. Fruit a linear, flat capsule, to 50 cm (20 in) long, with oblong, winged seeds.
Native Lookalikes: From a distance, can be confused with Yellow or Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), since both are vines, have large yellow tubular flowers, large glossy leaves, and can grow to be quite large. However, on closer inspection, the two plants have different leaves. Yellow jessamine has simple leaves, with only a single blade, while cat's claw vine has compound leaves, with two leaflets plus a third middle leaflet that has evolved to be a tendril with three "toes" at the the end that give the plant its "cat's claw" and hence its name. In addition, the seed pods are different. That of yellow jessamine is no more than an inch long, while cat's claw vine pods are up to 20 inches long (reminiscent of the seed pods of trumpet creeper, Campsis radicans, which is in the same family).
Yellow or Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)
Note the leaves are simple, without the tendril that catclaw vine has.
Ecological Threat: Catclawvine, also called cat's claw vine, is a long lived plant that grows relatively slow. As the plant matures, typically in its second year, root tubers and stolons form. Tubers and stolons can also form at each node if the vine is creeping along the soil surface. Pursuant to its rooting abilities, a dense mat will cover the forest floor and smother native vegetation. Areas that are susceptible to invasion to cat's claw include river or stream banks, near human habitations, and undisturbed hammocks.
Biology & Spread: Thrives in full sun or partial shade and in a wide variety of soils. Stays at seedling stage for some time, while enlarging roots into tuberlike storage organs; then rapidly elongates stems, forming long runners when no erect substrate is within reach. Clings tenaciously to any substrate with adventitious roots and clawed tendrils. Flowers in spring, with high seed production, but may not begin flowering until vine is well established. Seeds dispersed by wind.
History: Introduced for ornament before 1947 and noted as grown outdoors in the South. Persistent around former habitations in south Florida. Cultivated in northern Florida and naturalized near human habitations.
U.S. Habitat: Wooded and riparian areas.
U.S. Nativity: Introduced to U.S.
Native Origin: Yucatan Pen., Mex., Guat., Alfred Rehder, Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs: Hardy in North America, The MacMillan Co., New York (1967)gen. (Bailey, L.H. and E.Z. Bailey, Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada, MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York , (1977).); NatureServe Explorer
U.S. Present: FL, GA, HI, LA, PR, SC, TX, VI
Distribution in Texas: Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Also, Texas and Louisiana.
List All Observations of Dolichandra unguis-cati reported by Citizen Scientists
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Preventative: The first step in preventative control of cats claw vine is to limit planting and removal of existing plants within the landscape. If possible, removal should occur before seeds are produced. Care must be exercised to prevent seed spread and dispersal during the removal process.
Cultural: Inform the public to refrain from purchasing, propagating, or planting cats claw vine due to its ability to escape into natural areas.
Mechanical: Continuous cutting or mowing will provide eventual control, but this process could take several months or years to deplete the reserves of larger plants. During this process it is essential to prevent seed formation.
Biological: There are no known biological control agents for catclaw vine.
Chemical: Current chemical controls include cutting the vines and painting the cut ends with glyphosate (100% solution) herbicide. Triclopyr may provide good control as well (100% solution as a basal bark treatment) or 1-2% foliar spray with surfactant.
Florida Exotic Pest and Plant Council. Macfadyena unguis-cati (L.) A. Gentry. Accessed 5 December 2008: http://www.fleppc.org/ID_book/Macfadyena%20unguis-cati.pdf.
MacDonald, G., B. Sellers, K. Langeland, T. Duperron-Bond, and E. Ketterer-Guest. 2008. Cats Claw Vine. Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida. Accessed 5 December 2008: http://aquat1.ifas.ufl.edu/node/259.
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