Avoiding the devil

It’s the stuff of nightmares. Stumbling through the bush, you wind your way through thick, sticky undergrowth, seeing nothing but hairy shapes with pink and red eyes. In the darkness something reaches out and grabs you!

This may seem melodramatic but it is a risk faced by critters whenever they come across a patch of devil’s claw.

First discovered in the Pine Creek area in the early gold mining days, by WWII this particularly nasty weed could be found throughout the Pine Creek, Katherine and Victoria River regions. Devil’s claw, Martynia annua, grows well in disturbed areas along roads, buildings and stockyards and, despite many years of active management, can still be found around Katherine and Timber Creek.

Devil’s claw is a shrub that grows up to 2m tall and has spiky-hairy leaves similar to those of pumpkin vines. The flowers of this noxious weed are actually quite pretty. White, pink or lavender bell-shaped blooms are decorated with red throats and yellow spots. Unfortunately the seed pod that follow the flowers is not as nice. When mature, these woody capsules have two sharply hooked spines or claws. These are able to dig deep into fur and flesh, or into the clothing, equipment or vehicle of anyone passing by. This is great for the devil’s claw as it means that its seeds are easily transported from place to place but it would be incredibly painful for whatever critter they are clinging on to.

Devil’s claw seeds are long-lived and can sprout after a number of years spent sitting inside the woody pod, waiting for the right conditions. This makes eradicating devil’s claw very difficult. Land managers must be prepared for 10 years of weed control before they can be certain that nothing remains.

Devils claw

Image: Devils claw, Martynia annua

Help keep Katherine free of devil’s claw. Don’t drive through weed patches, the seed pods will stick to just about anything! If you have devil’s claw on your property, isolation fencing that keeps stock and wallabies out of the area will protect both your investment and the environment.

Keep an eye out for those distinctive leaves and colourful flowers. If you see them give the Weed Management Branch a call on 89 738 857. They’ll get you up to speed on the best way to deal with devil’s claw.

Back to top