Skip to Content

What is Devil’s Claw? (Martyniaceae proboscidea)

What is Devil’s Claw?

Devil’s Claw Overview

The true native range of the Devil’s Claw is unclear but probably includes parts of the southwestern United States and Mexico in North America.

Common names it shares with other Proboscidea species include devil’s claw and unicorn plants. Names more specific to the species include common devil’s claw, ram’s horn, aphid trap, Louisiana unicorn-plant, purple-flowered devil’s-claw, goat’s head, and elephant tusks.

RELATED ARTICLE >> How to Remove Cactus Spines


Proboscidea louisianica is a species of flowering plant in the family Martyniaceae.

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Eudicots
  • Clade: Asterids
  • Order: Lamiales
  • Family: Martyniaceae
  • Genus: Proboscidea

Size and Body Description

The plant is an annual herb with spreading stems up to about 80 centimeters long.


The oppositely arranged ovate leaves have blades up to 30 centimeters wide. The herbage is coated in glandular hairs carrying tiny oil droplets, making the plant feel oily to the touch and giving it a strong scent. The essential oil vaporizes into the air, and gives the landscape a “distinct acrid odor”.

The lobed flower corolla is lavender, “purple-cream”, yellowish with purple spots, or “dull white to somewhat pinkish-purple” with yellowish nectar guides and with or without purple blotches.



The plant rarely self-pollinates. It is pollinated by bees; species noted on the plant include Melissodes communis, Svastra obliqua, Anthophora occidentalis, Augochlorella striata, Bombus fervidus, Bombus pensylvanicus, and Lasioglossum species.


One plant can produce up to 80 fruits. The fruit is a dehiscent capsule up to 10 centimeters long with a long, narrow, curving beak. The horns can be up to 30 centimeters long. As the fruit dries and the flesh falls away, the hard beak splits into two horns.  The fruit can contain black or white seeds; white-seeded plants are more common in cultivation.

The seeds can be over 43% oil.

References Used

What is Devil’s Claw?

Devil’s Claw is also known by the names Ram’s Horn, Aphid Trap, Louisiana Unicorn-plant, Purple-flowered Devil’s-claw, Goat’s Head, and Elephant Tusks.

Bloom Information:

Bloom Color: White, Pink, Yellow, Purple

Bloom Time: May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep

Growing Conditions:

Water Use: Low

Light Requirement: Sun

Soil Moisture: Dry

Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)

Soil Description: Moist, sandy soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam


What is Devil's Claw

What is Devil’s Claw?

The image above was taken at Montezuma’s Castle outside of Sedona, Arizona.

Below is the transcription of the placard.

Devil’s Claw – proboscidea louisianica

This particular species of Poboscidea is native to the Southwestern US and Mexico and occurs throughout the other North American regions as well. Devil’s Claw is unique because of its long hooked seed pods. These hooks catch on the feet and legs of animals as they walk, and then are ground or crushed open, dispersing the seeds. The seeds are edible, as well as the young green fruits which can be steamed and eaten. When the fruit dries and ripens and the flesh falls away, the hard beak splits into two horns. The Tohono O’odham use this as a tool and incorporate it into the ornate basket weaving designs.