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Medicinal Plants of the SW: Acacia greggii


 Acacia greggii

Taxonomy: Magnoliophyta (angiosperm), Magnoliopsida (dicot), Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)

Common names: catclaw, Gregg cat claw, cat's claw acacia, tear blanket, devils claw, paradise flower, long-flowered catclaw, Texas mimosa, uña de gato.

 By Amanda Garcia, Monica Moya, Virginia Chavez-Bell Summer 2000

 Acacia greggii is a member of the Fabaceae family; it is native to the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Catclaw occurs primarily in semi-desert grasslands and brushy range lands largely confined to washes. It is often found on the upper slopes of a bajada (Spanish for downhill) where moisture is more available than middle or lower bajada situations. Catclaw has the highest water requirements of several species of desert shrubs tested, partially explaining why although it is found in arid regions, is often confined to dry washes or stream bottoms with relatively shallow water tables.

Photos provided by and copyrighted to: NatureSongs

 Catsclaw a perennial, is characterized as being a 3 to 10 foot tall shrub but may develop into an upright tree 25 to 30 feet tall. It is often thicket forming and has numerous spreading, slender thorny branches. The brown, stout, "claw like" thorns are about 0.25 inch long. The bark is gray to black. Numerous creamy-yellow flowers occur in 1.25 to 2.5 inch long spikes. The stiff and papery gray-brown legume-type fruits are 2 to 5.5 inches long, 0.5 to 0.75 inch wide, curved or contorted, flattened and constricted between the seeds.


Catsclaw acacia reproduces sexually by producing an abundance of seeds. Vegetative regeneration (sprouting) occurs following damage to the above-ground portion of the plant. Catclaw acacia flowers are pollinated by insects and begin to produce seed between 4 to six years of age. It has shown varying success when transplanted. Seedlings can be nursery grown in tall containers to accommodate the deep root systems. In California, seed collected in the field exhibited good germination without any special treatment in fall or spring.

Catsclaw acacia has flowers in yellow, cylindrical spikes. The flowers and leaves of this plant resemble mesquite, but cats claw thorns are like rose thorns, broad at the base and curved backward while mesquite thorns are straight. The seed pods of the catsclaw split upon maturing mesquite pods do not.  
Photos provided by and copyrighted to: NatureSongs


Gather the pods when still green and dry the leaves and branches over a paper as the leaves often fall off while hanging. The longer distal roots, chopped into small segments while moist. The gum is gathered the same way as mesquite gum and the flowers are dried. The green leaves, stems, and pods are powdered for tea (standard infusion) or for topical application; the roots are best used as a cold standard infusion, warmed for drinking and gargling.

Photos provided by and copyrighted to: NatureSongs

 Medicinal Uses:
Pods are used for conjunctivitis in the same manner as mesquite pods and the gum, although catsclaw is harder to harvest it is used in the same way as mesquite gum. The powdered pods and leaves make an excellent infused tea (2-4 ounces of the standard infusion every three hours) for diarrhea and dysentery, as well as a strongly astringent hemostatic and antimicrobial wash. The straight powder will stop superficial bleeding and can also be dusted into moist, chafed body folds and dusted on infants for diaper rash. The flowers and leaves as a simple tea are good anti-inflammatory for the stomach and esophagus in nausea, vomiting, and hangovers. It is distinctly sedative. The root is thick and mucilaginous as a tea and is good for sore throat and mouth inflammations as well as dry raspy coughing.

People who have used this plant:
Catsclaw has been used by Native Americans for treating the sore backs and flanks of their horses. There has been no specific information on cultural practices concerning catsclaw. Most sources indicate that the plant has been used by many groups in the southwestern United States.

Non-medicinal Uses:
Dried pods were ground into flour and used to make mush or cakes. Pods are eaten fresh and are considered to be a great construction material and fine firewood.(Bean & Saubel, 1972). Seeds are stored, roasted, ground and made into bread. Split twigs were used as basket material and made into a brush to sweep off the metates or stone grinding mortar and pestles (Weber & Seaman, 1985). Beans are used for food. (Russell, 1908) Seeds were used as "starvation food" (Rea, 1991) and used to feed domesticated animals. (Hinton, 1975).

Photos provided by and copyrighted to: NatureSongs

Active Ingredients Constituents for the leaves, pods, and roots:

  • benzyl alcohol
  • butyric acid
  • coumarin
  • cresol
  • 7', 4'-trihydroxyflavan-3
  • 4-diol
  • leucoanthocyanidin
  • N-methyl-B-phenethylamine
  • N-methylpentathylamine
  • N-methyltyramine
  • tyramine
  • gum: same as Mesquite gum
  • anisaldehyde
  • benzoic acid
  • References:
    Native American Ethnobotany Database, Univ. Michigan-Dearborn
    Search results for Acacia gregii:

    Moore, M. Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. Museum of New
    Mexico Press, Santa Fe, NM, 1989.
    Moore, M. . American Indian Ethnobotany Databases. SW School of Botanical
    Medicine, July 12, 1999.
    Photos provided by and copyrighted to: NatureSongs Special thanks to
    Doug Von Gausig.


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    Updated February 13, 2008

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