Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Yellowflower Devil's Claw (Ibicella lutea) is an annual invasive species inhabiting tropical, subtropical and warm temperate areas in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland.
  • It is mainly an agricultural weed, and is found on roadsides, river flats and cultivated areas, but it occurs as isolated plants or small clusters, and rarely forms large colonies.
  • The fruit have large woody claws that can attach to livestock, clothing, machinery or vehicles, which is a major form of dispersal.
  • These claws can cause injury or death to animals.
  • It can compete strongly with summer crops such as cotton and is readily controlled by manual removal, as it does not resprout from its roots.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Yellowflower Devil's Claw (Ibicella lutea) is an erect annual herb growing 20–50 cm high. Stems are stout, branched and hollow, and covered with glandular hairs that secrete a slimy, sticky sap. Leaves are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem, are rounded with a heart shaped base, 6–16 cm long, 5–25 cm across, and covered with hairs similar to those on the stems. Leaf stalks are approximately 20 cm long.

The yellow flowers are spotted with red or purple markings on the inside, and can be densely clustered. The flowers are trumpet shaped and 5–7.5 cm in diameter.

The fruit is 10–25 cm long and light brown, with short spines at the base. The fruit consists of a bulbous capsule containing numerous seeds, with a curved beak that is longer than the body of the fruit. The fruit becomes hard and woody as it matures, and splits into two curved claws. The seeds are black or grey, strongly wrinkled, and approximately 10 mm long and 6 mm wide (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004; Richardson et al. 2006).

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

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Yellowflower Devil's Claw grows in a wide variety of habitats in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions. It usually occurs on disturbed sites such as roadsides, crops and fallows, and pastures, but also along waterways. Plants most often occur singly or in small patches; large infestations are rare (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Purpleflower Devil's Claw (Proboscidea louisiana) is similar, but differs by its cream to purple flowers with dark orange and purple markings in the throat, that are relatively loosely clustered. The fruits in Purpleflower Devil's Claw species are larger (8–30 cm long), and are brown to black (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

Devil's Claw (Martynia annua), is also similar but has pink to lavender flowers that are relatively loosely clustered, and comparatively small fruits (3–4 cm long). The fruits of Devil's Claw have very short claws that are shorter than the fruit, compared to those of Yellowflower Devil's Claw which are longer (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Navie 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Native ecosystems: Yellowflower Devil's Claw is not known to have any major impact on native flora and fauna as it occurs singly or in small patches, rarely forming large colonies, and most often only occurs on disturbed land. It is not documented as occurring in natural ecosystems. However, as it is a low growing herb, it may have potential to displace other herbs, forbs or grasses (Victorian Resources Online 2007).

Agriculture: While stock do not graze this plant due to the sticky discharge, serious injury can occur to animals if the hard, clawed fruit is caught in the mouth or nose. The fruit can also cause damage when the claws work into the animal's body or feet (Robbins et al. 1970; Parson 1973; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

This species can compete strongly with summer crops such as cotton, and it is particularly drought tolerant due to its extensive root system (Parsons 1973; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). However, it has minimal impact on yield (Victorian Resources Online 2007).

How does it spread?

The claws on the fruits of Yellowflower Devil's Claw attach readily to passing animals, whereby seeds are dispersed. Sheep are considered to be a particularly important dispersal vector. Seed transport is the only known dispersal mechanism of this species. Seeds are eaten by cockatoos, but it is unknown whether or not this result in seed dispersal (Parsons 1973; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Experiments suggest that cross pollination is necessary for seed development (Victorian Resources Online 2007).

What is its history in Australia?

The precise time of introduction of the Yellowflower Devil's Claw into Australia is not known, but it was probably introduced as an ornamental, or possibly accidentally, attached to bags or merchandise (Parsons 1973). It was recorded in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens in 1858 and was considered naturalised in Victoria by 1882 (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: Yellowflower Devil's Claw is not difficult to manage and can be effectively removed manually by cultivation or hoeing, up until flowering. This species is only known to reproduce by seeds and will not resprout from the roots. If flowering does occur, plants should be destroyed properly by burning (Parsons 1973; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Chemical control: Herbicides should be applied to actively growing seedlings or adult plants up until flowering (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Ensbey & Johnson 2007).

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)

Yellowflower Devil's Claw flowers from summer to autumn (Navie 2004; Richardson et al. 2006). Flowering and fruiting occurs mostly from February to March, and plants die as temperatures decrease into autumn. Seeds germinate in spring, and grow rapidly through spring and summer (Parsons 1973; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Yellowflower Devil's Claw occurs as a weed in crops and on irrigated land, particularly in warmer areas (Richardson et al. 2006). It is widespread and most common in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, but is also recorded from south-eastern South Australia. This species is not known to occur in Western Australia, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory (Navie 2004). It is recorded in most districts in Queensland, except for the central and south-west parts of the state (Kleinshmidt & Johnson 1977).

Where does it originate?

Yellowflower Devil's Claw is native to tropical South America (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) and Mexico (Robbins et al. 1970; Hill 1993; GRIN 2007).

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

Ibicella lutea

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

Martynia lutea Lindl.
Proboscidea lutea (Lindl.) Stapf.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Devil's Grip, Double Claw, Eagle's Claw, Elephant Tusks, Goat's Head, Pumpkin Vine, Ram's Horn, Unicorn Plant

Blackberry – a community-driven approach in Victoria

Blackberry the weed (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) was first introduced to Australia by European settlers in the mid-1800s as a fruit. It was recognised as a weed by mid-1880s. Blackberry is a serious issue across Australia. It is estimated that blackberry infests approximately 8.8 million hectares of land at an estimated cost of $103 million in annual control and production losses.

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