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Cat’s-claw, Catclaw blackbead
Pithecellobium unguis-cati

Copyright by: George D. Gann
in habitat, Everglades National Park, Key Largo, Florida, 2013

General Landscape Uses: Accent or specimen shrub or small tree along the coast. Buffer plantings.

Availability: Native plant nurseries.

Description: Large shrub or small tree with an irregular crown from spreading, spiny branches. Trunks short, to about 8 inches in diameter. Bark reddish-brown, divided by fissures. Leaves compound, the leaflets about 1-2 inches long.

Dimensions: Typically 10-15 feet in height; to 24 feet in South Florida. Often as broad as tall or broader.

Growth Rate: Moderate.

Range: Monroe County Keys and Miami-Dade County north along west coast to Hillsborough County; West Indies, Central America and South America. In Miami-Dade County not known from the mainland; known only from the Florida Keys in and around Elliott Key in Biscayne National Park. For a digitized image of Elbert Little's Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website.

Plant Map Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

 Map of suggested ZIP codes from South Florida north to southern Brevard, Osceola, Polk, and Pasco counties.

 Map of ZIP codes with habitat recommendations from the Monroe County Keys north to Martin and Charlotte counties.

Habitats: Coastal hammocks.

Soils: Moist, well-drained sandy or limestone soils, with humusy top layer.

Nutritional Requirements: Moderate; can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive.

Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water.

Salt Wind Tolerance: Moderate; grows near salt water, but is protected from direct salt spray by other vegetation.

Drought Tolerance: High; does not require any supplemental water once established.

Light Requirements: Full sun.

Flower Color: White to greenish-yellow.

Flower Characteristics: Semi-showy globose heads. Fragrant.

Flowering Season: All year; peak in summer.

Fruit: Reddish-brown pod (legume).

Wildlife and Ecology: Provides food and cover for wildlife. Larval host plant for cassius blue (Leptotes cassius), large orange sulphur (Phoebis agarithe), and presumably Miami blue (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) butterflies. Nectar plant for cassius blue, giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), and presumably Miami blue butterflies.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed removed from the aril. Place seed on top of soil and just cover. Place container in light shade.

References: Miami-Dade County Landscape Manual (2005).

Comments: Almost the entire plant is spiny.

Copyright by: George D. Gann
in habitat, Everglades National Park, Key Largo, Florida, 2013

Copyright by: George D. Gann
in habitat, Everglades National Park, Key Largo, Florida, 2013

Copyright by: Roger L. Hammer

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Other data on Pithecellobium unguis-cati available from:

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