Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Devil's Claw (Martynia annua) is an annual species occurring in tropical, subtropical and semi-arid areas in the Northern Territory, Queensland, and New South Wales where it invades disturbed areas such as stockyards, roadsides, pastures and crops.
  • Devil's Claw disperses predominantly by seed which remain in the clawed fruit and can attach to passing animals, farm machinery or vehicles.
  • The hard, clawed fruit can cause injuries to livestock.
  • It invades disturbed sites where it can prevent the regeneration of native species.
  • It is a potential host plant for pests of tobacco crops.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Devil's Claw (Martynia annua) is an upright annual herb growing from 0.25–2 m in height. The greenish, thick stems are much branched and covered with glandular hairs which produce a sticky sap. The kidney-shaped or almost circular leaves are up to 12.5 cm across, with five to seven shallow lobes.

The tubular and bell-shaped flowers are 3–5 cm long and produced in clusters near the tips of the branches. The flower can be pink, lavender or white, with darker purple markings on the five petals, and with a line of yellow and red markings in the throat.

The fruit is a large fleshy capsule, 2–3 cm long, containing two large seeds. The fruits are green and fleshy when immature, but harden with maturity, becoming grey to black. Each fruit tapers to a short fleshy horn, which, during maturation, splits into two hardened claws 5–10 mm long. Seeds are brown to black in colour, oblong shaped and somewhat flattened (Pitt 1998; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

For further information and assistance with identification of Devil's Claw contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

White, Pink

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Devil's Claw is most common in tropical, subtropical and semi-arid areas. It is particularly invasive on disturbed land and is often found in areas such as stockyards, buildings, roadsides, pastures and crops (Pitt 1998; Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Two other declared weeds in Australia, Purpleflower Devil's Claw (Proboscidea louisiana) and Yellowflower Devil's Claw (Ibicella lutea) are similar to and belong to the same family as Devil's Claw (Martynia annua). These species are most easily distinguished by having larger fruits (8–30 cm long in the Purpleflower species; 10–25 cm in the Yellowflower species), and claws on their fruits that are longer than the capsule. The Yellowflower species also has relatively dense flower clusters (racemes) compared to Devil's Claw (Navie 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Agriculture: Devil's Claw is not considered to be palatable to stock, thus its survival and spread are not mitigated by grazing pressure (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Devil's Claw is thought to act as an alternative host to several serious insect pests of Tobacco in Cuba (Heliothis virescens, Manduca sexta, Oceanthus allardi) and thus, it could potentially harbour serious pests of North Queensland Tobacco crops (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Native ecosystems: Devil's Claw is considered to be a major threat in northern Australia, as it invades disturbed sites where it can prevent the regeneration of native species (Smith 2002).

Human impacts: The clawed fruit can also attach to animals where they can work into the soft parts of the body such as the skin, mouth and hooves, causing injury (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How does it spread?

Devil's Claw spreads predominantly by seeds which remain in the pods. The clawed pods attach to passing animals, farm machinery and vehicles (Kleinschmidt & Johnson 1977; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

What is its history in Australia?

Devil's Claw was first recorded in the Northern Territory at Pine Creek during early gold mining days and in Katherine after the second World War (Pitt 1998). It was first recorded in New South Wales in 1920 at Warialda (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: Devil's Claw is not difficult to manage and can be effectively removed manually by cultivation or hoeing, up until flowering. Small infestations can be removed by hand or by slashing close to the ground. Regrowth may occur if plants are too young or slashed too high (Pitt 1998).

This species is only known to reproduce by seeds and will not resprout from the roots. If flowering does occur, plants should be destroyed by burning (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Chemical control: Larger colonies can be effectively controlled chemically by spot-spraying or boom spraying (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Seeds of Devil's Claw germinate at any time of the year in northern Australia, providing there is adequate moisture, with seeds mainly germinating in the wet summer period (October to March). Plants grow rapidly, flowering and seeding from December to March, dying off in autumn (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Devil's Claw is common in coastal and subcoastal regions of the Northern Territory, north-east and central Queensland, and north-east New South Wales. In the Northern Territory it is found in the Pine Creek, Katherine and Victoria River Districts (Pitt 1998). In Queensland it occurs in coastal areas, through the Cook, North Kennedy, and South Kennedy pastoral districts, and has also been recorded in central Queensland (Kleinschmidt & Johnson 1977; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). In New South Wales it is considered to be a garden escape, but is rarely naturalised and occurs north from Armidale, in the Northern Tablelands and North Western Slops (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where does it originate?

Devil's Claw is native to Mexico, Central and South America, and some Caribbean islands. It is widely naturalised in the tropics (GRIN 2007; Thorp & Wilson 1998– ). It is considered to be a threat on Pacific Islands (PIER 2003) and is a common weed in the West Indies, India, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Martynia annua

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

Martynia diandra Gloxin

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Small-fruit Devil's Claw, Iceplant, Tiger's Claw

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