University of Arizona Campus Arboretum

Share this story on Twitter.

The tree of the week is Senegalia greggii, or catclaw acacia. It gets its name from the spines on its stem, which can be up to a quarter of an inch long and, unlike other acacias, are curved like a cat’s claw. It's also called the "wait-a-minute" tree because if you’re snagged, you have to “wait a minute” and unhook yourself from the tree’s claws!

It’s not all vicious, though, the Senegalia greggii also has fragrant cream-colored flowers that occur in dense spikes and have been used by indigenous women as a type of perfume.

Historically, its young, unripe beans were an important food source for many southwestern tribes, and its wood was used for construction, tools, baskets, fences, and furniture. A native to the desert Southwest, its specific epithet honors Josiah Gregg, a botanist and author who explored the American Southwest and northern Mexico in the early 1800’s. 

April 2017