Dolichandra unguis-cati (BIGNONIACEAE) Cat’s Claw Creeper

Weeds to Whack

Cat’s Claw Creeper Dolichandra unguis-cati has been declared a Weed of National Significance. Native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and tropical South America this climber is found in the coastal and sub-coastal areas of South-East Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. It was introduced as a garden plant. Commonly naturalised along waterways and in disturbed rainforests, it smothers and pulls down tall trees. It is fast growing and very hard to eradicate once it has become established. The stems become very robust and woody, clinging to bark with masses of fine tendrils.

Distinctive yellow flowers

Leaves and Claws

The leaves are opposite, having two leaflets and a distinctive three-clawed tendril. It has showy yellow tubular flowers 4-8 cm long. Mature fruit are dark brown and strap-like, 15-50 cm long and 8-12 mm wide, containing numerous papery, winged seeds. This climber is a liana capable of reaching 30 m in height. It can reproduce by its underground tubers, which can grow up to a metre long and half a metre wide.

Photo: Robert Whyte


It was recently ranked as the fourth most invasive alien plant species in South-East Queensland, and is currently regarded as a priority environmental weed in five Natural Resource Management regions (Sheldon Navie, 2008). It can grow as a ground cover along the forest floor, forming a thick carpet of stems and leaves. This species is a Class-3 Declared Plant in Queensland. Landholders are not required to control it unless their land is adjacent to an environmentally significant area. It is classified as a Class-C Environmental Weed by the Brisbane City Council.

Fibrous stem

Large Vine on Tree

Cut and paint with glyphosate 50:50, including tubers.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Trees Swallowed in Ashgrove

Cat’s Claw Creeper can bring down large trees.

Photo: Robert Whyte