Field of Science


Cat's Claw Vine - Greenhouse juggernaut

More years ago than any of us want to admit, the Phactor used to travel to LSU to do some collaborative research with a colleague during our spring breaks. The logic was simple, Louisiana has better weather that time of year, my field work hadn't started yet, and then there's the seafood so the 1st two really didn't count. In addition to bringing back crayfish for friends in the seafood reciprocity pact, one year a bit of cat's claw vine (Macfadyena unguis-cati) was brought back and placed in our university glasshouse because it's not hardy up here. It promptly climbed a nearby tree, Dillenia indica, grasped onto the central support framework of the greenhouse, and has lived their ever since surviving several attempts to eradicate it. Now each spring its shoots droop down and cheerfully flower and although one would think it requiring of a pollinator, it selfs and produces numerous fruit whose winged seeds drop into everything around. Cat's claw vine is so named because the terminal leaflet of the trifoliate leaf is a 3-clawed grappling hook that snags any irregularity and is set in place by the weight of the vine. Later adventitious roots take over the task of holding the vine in place. The flowers are large and quite handsome, clearly a member of the Bignon family (both the fruit, which is flatter, and seeds are similar to Catalpa). This vine will probably exist living in the inside peak of the greenhouse, a most hostile location with both winter and summer extremes, until the entire structure is taken down at some future date, probably by just hooking a truck onto the vine and pulling, and maybe someone will wonder who in their right mind put that vine there in the first place. Dunno!

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