Devil's Claw

Devil's Claw


(Proboscidea parviflora)

A unique and lovely annual plant in the Sesame family native to the Southwestern US and Northern Mexico that has multiple uses and good drought tolerance.

The plant has rosy colored stems and sticky, trichome-covered leaves, stems and flowers that can capture small insects, probably providing protection against attack from small sap-suckers and leaf eaters. Devil’s claw has beautiful, tube-shaped, pink, magenta, yellow and white flowers that are a little reminiscent of foxglove flowers with interesting markings and are attractive to native bees.

The pods develop into long, curved shapes, and as they dry out they split down the middle, making pointed ‘claws’. The claws allow the seedpods to catch a ride on creatures so that their seeds can be spread far and wide. It is thought that these plants evolved alongside large creatures of the ancient Americas, getting their seed dispersed by animals like ground sloths and ancient horses.

The plants are heliotropic, meaning that they move to follow the sun like the flowers of sunflowers, but in Devil’s claws’ case the entire plant follows the sun. It’s fascinating to see!

The edible protein- and oil-rich seeds, peeled roots, and young pods have a long history of use by many Southwestern tribes. The strong fibers of the woody, black claws of the mature pods are used in creating contrast in beautiful basketry patterns seen in the works of the Tohono O’odham and other peoples of the Southwest. The women of some of these groups have been selecting Devil’s claw for edibility and basketry for many generations. We enjoy decorating our home with the most unusual claws from each plant; their elegant lines look like organic calligraphy.

Our original seed stock that we grew our crop from was wild-collected white-seeded plants near a wash in Washington County, Utah. According to Native Seeds/SEARCH materials, the white-seeded plants make bigger pods and the seeds of those plants were typically collected and propagated in breeding the domesticated versions of these plants.

To assist seed germination, peel off the seedcoat and sow seeds when the soil has warmed. The plants do well with full sun and dry soils, and they thrive in heat and summer moisture that mimic southwestern summer monsoons.

Packet: 20 seeds

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