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Catclaw Acacia

Acacia greggii
Senegalia greggii

Watercolor © by Michael Plagens

Watercolor from live specimen found at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, April 27, 1992. The blue lycaenid butterfly is the Marine Blue, Leptotes marina. The butterflies often take nectar at acacia flowers and the larvae eat the leaves.

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Acacia greggii bean pod with several seeds by Michael Plagens

Mature Acacia greggii pod observed along Mesquite Wash, Maricopa Co., Arizona, August 2009.

ARMED : During your first encounter with the flora of Arizona, this ubiquitous shrub will likely find you first! The impossibly sharp, hooked spines will tug at your clothing, and surely scratch and tear any exposed skin. Later you will cuss a bit as you work to extract the broken off spine-tips from your flesh and clothing. The scars of your desert trek will be a sign to friends and co-workers of your outdoorsy nature.

SHRUB: 2 to 4 m tall, but with a good water supply Catclaw Acacia can grow to small tree size - and a very attractive one at that!

LEAVES: Twice compound leaves typically have four sets of 10 leaflets. Leaves remain on the plant well into drought periods, but are frost sensitive; the leaves turn yellow by late fall.

FLOWERS: Dense spikes of cream colored flowers emit powerfully sweet fragrance. Blooming mostly April and May. Like the other members of this tribe, the "flowers" are really dense clusters of flowers with minute petals and long conspicuous stamens.

FRUIT: Curled or twisted shiny brown pods are 7+ cm long, 1 cm wide, a bit woody and with five or so hard brown seeds.

RANGE: A common component of the vegetation throughout the Sonoran Desert, especially along washes.

Marine Blue After you're through cussing this shrub, stop to observe its beauty and the diverse fauna that thrives on it. Even along the driest washes this shrub often presents a lush appearance with stems densely clothed in feathery leaves. The highly fragrant flowers are visited by hoards of beetles, bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies. A very small butterfly is nearly always to be encountered at the flowers, the Marine Blue, Leptotes marina.

Fabaceae - Bean Family
Mimosoideae - Mimosa Subfamily

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Cat-claw adds a bit of autumn color by late November © by Michael Plagens

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 10 Dec. 2000,
updated 12 June 2012