Prune only to remove wayward branches, to remove lower branches to expose the attractive trunk or to train into a multi-trunk tree.
Catclaw acacia is a large shrub native to our local desert and the wider Sonoran desert, into Mexico as well as New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. Previous scientific name for this tree was Acacia greggii and you may still see it listed under this name. Other common names include: Wait a Minute Bush; Devil's Claw; Gregg's Acacia or Catclaw
Catclaw acacia is a long-lived (100+ years) desert native that can survive on natural rainfall once established. Its long roots can reach groundwater when growing in washes. Give it an occasional watering if the weather is especially hot and dry. This tough, drought tolerant plant is native to alkaline rocky hillsides, washes or sandy desert flats. The leaves can be drought deciduous - so plan for its possible leafless state when designing your garden. Rod-shaped, creamy yellow flowers occur in abundance in the spring and early summer provided there was ample winter rain. Grow catclaw acacia in full sun and well-drained soil.
Shrubby forms often reach 6 feet high and wide while trees can reach as high as 20 feet with similar spread. Ultimate size will depend on the amount of supplemental water given. It is usually multi-trunk with an irregular shape. Catclaw acacia can be used as a large screen, background, desert accent, barrier or small multi-trunk tree if trained.
The thorns along the stems are shaped like cat's claws and can catch clothes and scratch skin, making this shrub inappropriate for tight spaces. Catclaw acacia works well, however, in naturalized plantings, as a purposeful barrier, and as a wildlife plant. A great shrub to provide shelter, cover and shade to a diverse group of desert mammals and birds. The fragrant flowers are highly attractive to bees, and the bean-like pods are a favorite of quail. This plant is best suited for revegetation projects, or as a wildlife resource. The dense, prickly branch structure makes catclaw acacia an excellent choice for nest building and many birds, such as cactus wren, black-throated sparrows, and nighthawks, will nest in its branches. Others, including quail, will use it as a roost.
According to the University of Arizona, the pods are a source of food for Cahuilla and Havasupai Native Americans. Unripe pods are typically eaten fresh, or dried and grounded into meal to then be made into porridge and bread. The wood has been used in basketry and the building of hunting and fishing tools among Havasupai, O’odham, and Pima Native Americans. The Seri tribe have also used the wood for building tools and weapons, such as chisels, digging sticks, fish and turtle harpoons, and bows. Its medicinal uses include using the pods to make eyewash to treat conjunctivitis, also grounding leaves and pods into powder that prevents bleeding and soothes sore skin. As a tea it may treat diarrhea and dysentery, with the addition of its flowers it may also treat nausea and vomiting. The root may be brewed into a tea that treats sore throats, mouth inflammation, and coughs
Growing Plants in the Desert — Important Information
The information presented here is, to the best of my knowledge, accurate and based on my research from reliable sources, observations I have made of plants growing in my, and other gardens I have visited, and observations of the plants in their native habitats. I would appreciate your feedback and experience to help me educate others!
Cacti: In my experience, cacti are much happier in the filtered shade here in the low desert of the Coachella Valley. Colors are more vibrant and they bloom more profusely, especially the non-native varieties. If you pay attention to how our native barrel and beavertail opuntia grow in the wild, it is frequently tucked in the rocks under creosote or another shrub.
Light Requirements: I have found that in our desert (Sonoran/Colorado) “full sun” plants can take and appreciate the late afternoon filtered sun, especially in the hot summer months.