Cat’s claw creeper is yet another escapee from the garden. This plant was introduced to Australia as a garden plant and has become a major weed of native forests of Australia. Its vigorous, climbing, woody stems cling to tree trunks, enabling it to grow into the forest canopy. It can grow in excess of 30 metres and has distinctive three-pronged claws along the growing portion of the plant. The stems in mature plants can be up to 20cm in diameter so this plant is no shrinking violet! The weight of this creeper can be so immense that it can topple the supporting tree’s branches and even the tree itself.
Every Spring, many of our forests will be absolutely bursting with colour from flowers of all hues, shapes and sizes. But some will only be a sea of yellow – the yellow of the Cat’s Claw Creeper Macfadyena unguis-cati with rather attractive bright flowers forming a bell shape when fully open and only occurring on mature plants.
Its name is derived from the three-clawed tendrils which grow from its stem, each resembling a cat’s claw which it uses to hook on and climb onto trees.
This aggressive vine is native to tropical America.
Unfortunately once this creeper is present it can spread very, very quickly, climbing up and smothering trees and covering the forest floor much like a carpet. The vine produces abundant winged seeds in long narrow, bean-like pods which open when ripe to enable dispersal by wind and water, it also develops tubers on its roots that assist its survival and spread. Dense infestations of cat’s claw creeper are very difficult to manage and can become overwhelming for landholders.
The best method of control for Coffs Coast landholders is a combination of physical and chemical means. Cut the stem and paint with full strength Roundup as quickly as possible – best if it is a two person attack – one cutting, one painting. It is essential to monitor for regrowth from roots, tubers and stumps after the physical/chemical treatment. Spot spray regrowth as soon as it appears.
The devastating rampant growth of this invasive creeper weed in our natural bushland is just horrendous, as you can see from the image to the left.
It is a long-lived perennial woody climber that can reach up to 30m in height also developing an extensive, tuberous root system – one for us to keep an eye on!