By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
Cat’s claw (Macfadyena unguis-cati) is an invasive vine with yellow flowers. This vine has three claw-like prongs on it, thus the name. It uses theses prongs to cling to whatever it climbs, and to travel on the ground. While some people that practice alternative medicine use the vine for medicinal purposes, most think of it only as a pest.
The bright yellow, tube-like flowers are eye-catching and make the vine very distinguishable from other plants. This plant is very aggressive, partly because it has multiple ways of growing. When spreading on the ground, new plants can spring up from tubs under the earth. When climbing, it produces seed pods with winged seeds that fly to a new location to grow.
Controlling cat’s claw is a common concern of many gardeners. Because cat’s claw vines are so aggressive, they can quickly take over plants and make it difficult for them to grow. This vine favors growing along the ground and in trees. If left alone, it can grow more than 50 feet (15 m.).
Climbing in the tree ruins the tree’s health and, in some cases, can even kill it. When the vine spreads on the ground, it smothers grass, small bushes, and other low-growing plants, usually killing them as well.
Completely getting rid of a cat’s claw vine is very difficult; however, it can be done with patience. Weed killers and other forms chemical killers do not seem to have great results. The best way to get rid of it is pulling it down from trees, and digging up the underground tubers. This is a difficult task, but it is much easier when you catch the vine while it is young.
Climbing cat’s claw control requires that you check back regularly to make sure all the tubers are gone and no new vines are sprouting.
Cat’s claw may be bad for your garden, but it is great for your health. If you’re tired of fighting the vines, take advantage of its many medicinal values. Indians, medicine people, and shamans have used cat’s claw for medicinal reasons for years. To take it as medicine, the inner bark and roots are stewed in water and then the liquid is ingested. Note: Never begin an herbal treatment program without medical consent.
Here are a few things it can assist in healing:
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