Cat's claw creeper

Cat's claw creeper is a declared class A and class C weed and a Weed of National Significance.

Go to the Weeds of National Significance website for more information.

Other names for this plant are Macfadyena unguis-cati or Dolichandra unguis-cati.

If you think you may have seen cat’s claw creeper, or have this weed on your property, don't attempt to control it. Contact the Weed Management Branch immediately for assistance.

Cat's claw creeper - infestation

Identification

You should use this as a guide. There may be other plants or weeds that look similar.

If you are unsure, contact the Weed Management Branch.

Habit

These features describe the habit of this plant:

  • large woody vine
  • climbs and creeps aggressively.

Cat's claw creeper - habit

Stems and branches

These features can identify the stems and branches:

  • numerous stems
  • up to 15cm thick
  • climb vertically and also creep along the ground and over other vegetation
  • vigorous branched root and tuber system
  • tubers can be up to 40cm long.

Cat's claw creeper - stems and branches

Leaves

These features can identify the leaves:

  • two leaflets 0.5 to 2.5cm long
  • on a 1 to 2cm long stalk (petiole)
  • each leaf has a basal pair of lance-shaped leaflets 2 to 7cm long x 1 to 3cm wide
  • third leaflet is modified into a three-pronged tendril
  • three-clawed tendril (cat's claw) 0.3 to 1.7cm long growing between the leaflets
  • tendrils have stiff tips that form hooks (like cat’s claws) that aid in climbing.

Cat's claw creeper - leaves Cat's claw creeper - claws

Flowers

These features can identify the flowers:

  • yellow
  • trumpet / bell-shaped
  • 4 to 10cm long and up to 10cm wide.

Cat's claw creeper - flowers

Fruit and seeds

These features can identify the fruit and seeds:

  • fruit is elongated
  • glossy green when young, dark brown as it matures
  • 15 to 50cm long and 0.8 to 1.2cm wide
  • pods are long, narrow and flat
  • each pod contain many oblong seeds
  • seeds are 1 to 4cm long and 0.4 to 1cm wide.

Impact

Cat’s claw creeper can have all of the following impacts:

  • smothers native vegetation
  • changes soil chemistry
  • grows up over and can kill mature trees
  • opens up the canopy for light-loving weeds.

Habitat and distribution

Cat’s claw creeper was introduced to Australia from tropical America as an ornamental garden plant.

It has since escaped into the wild and become a major weed in native forests and riparian areas of eastern Australia. 

It has had a serious impact along coastal and hinterland streams in Queensland and northern NSW.

Cat’s claw creeper is not known to be naturalised in the NT.

Control

If you think you may have seen cat’s claw creeper, or have this weed on your property, do not attempt to control it. 

Contact the Weed Management Branch immediately for assistance.

Last updated: 27 June 2017