Pithecellobium unguis-cati

Pithecellobium unguis-cati (L.) Benth.

Common Names: Cat’s Claw, Cat Claw Black Bead, Black Bead, Bread and Cheese, Crab Prickle, Goat Bush

Family: Fabaceae

Habit: Pithecellobium unguis-cati grows as a pubescent shrub to small multi-trunked tree up to 9 m in height (usually 3-7 m.) The leaves are arranged alternately, bipinnately compound, to 10 cm in length, with 2 pinnae each with two subleaflets.  The petiole has a round gland between the pinnae.  Subleaflets obovate to rounded, to 4 cm long with an obtuse leaf apex and entire margin. At the base of each leaf are stipular spines up to 2 cm long. Foliage often with a. reddish tinge.

The complete, perfect, actinomorphic flowers are in round heads.  The calyx has 5 fused, green sepals. The corolla has 5 fused, yellow petals. The calyx and corolla are fused into a single structure. There are numerous yellow to pink showy stamens that are twice as long as the perianth and provide the coloring of the heads. The fruit is a reddish legume that becomes coiled as it matures.  The seeds are black with a white or red aril.

Habitat: Pithecellobium unguis-cati grows in Dry Broadleaf Evergreen Formations – Forests/Shrublands (coppice).

Distribution: Pithecellobium unguis-cati occurs throughout the island groups in the Lucayan Archipelago as well as the Caribbean region and Central and northern South America and in Florida. It has been introduced to tropical and subtropical areas of the world.

Medicinal/Cultural/Economic usage: Pithecellobium unguis-cati is not known to be used medicinally in the Lucayan Archipelago.