Dolichandra unguis-cati

Cat's claw vine

Nonnative to FloridaFISC Category 1 Invasive

Species Overview

Native to: Tropical America

Cat's claw vine was introduced into Florida as an ornamental some time before 1947. It has since escaped cultivation and due to its rapid growth, has become increasingly prevalent in natural areas.  Cat's claw can form dense mats which carpet the forest floor, altering native plant communities. The vine also climbs standing vegetation and can smother native trees and shrubs.  Cat's claw vine gets its name from the 3-pronged claw-like climbing appendages that are used to grasp onto plants or surfaces.

Species Characteristics

  • Family: Bignoniaceae
  • Habit: high-climbing woody vine (liana) that can grow up to 50 feet in length, often rooting at the node; stems are covered with lenticels; tendrils are forked, with a claw-like tip
  • Leaves: opposite, compound, with 2 leaflets that mature into ovate or lanceolate shaped leaves; entire margins; dark green
  • Flowers: trumpet shaped, yellow, 3 inches long and 4 inches across; solitary or in axillary clusters
  • Fruit: capsules are linear and flat, roughly 20 inches long 
  • Seeds: oblong winged seeds that are wind-dispersed
  • Distribution in Florida: north, central and south, with limited distribution in panhandle

This species is very similar in appearance to the native crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), but the crossvine possesses red-orange flowers. Cat's claw yellow, trumpet shaped flowers also resemble native jessamines (Gelsemium spp.), but can be differentiated by jessamines' lack of tendrils and simple leaves. 


Cat's claw vine is a long-lived plant that grows relatively slowly. In the seedling stage, cat's claw directs nutrients to its underground roots and tubers and then rapidly elongates stems. It is adapted to a wide variety of soil types, enabling establishment in all manner of habitats. Areas that are susceptible to invasion to cat's claw include river or stream banks, near human habitations and undisturbed hammocks. Cat’s claw vine is one of the most difficult vines to control in Florida. It reestablishes from numerous seedlings with tuberous roots that typically grow around the base of trees.

Cat's claw is not recommended by UF/IFASThe UF/IFAS Assessment lists it as having high invasion risk in all parts of the state. FLEPPC lists it as a Category l invasive species due to its ability to invade and displace native plant communities.

Control Methods

Preventive Measures

The first step in preventative control of cats' claw vine is to never plant and remove any existing plants within the landscape. If possible, removal should occur before seed capsules are produced. Care must be exercised to prevent seed spread and dispersal during the removal process. Inform the public to refrain from purchasing, propagating, or planting cat's claw vine due to its ability to escape into natural areas. Native alternatives to cat's claw include crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and railroad vine (Ipomoea pes-caprae). 


Hand pull new seedlings and be sure to remove the underground tuber, to avoid re-sprouting. Vines can be difficult to remove from trees, however cutting at the base of the vine and removing the associated tuber is effective. 


Continuous cutting or mowing will provide eventual control, but this process could take several months or years to deplete the reserves of larger plants. During this process it is essential to prevent seed formation.


There are no known biological control agents for cat's claw vine.

  • Cut stem: 100% glyphosate product (cut the vines and paint cut ends with glyphosate)
  • Foliar: 2–3% glyphosate product, 2% Garlon 3A
  • Basal bark: 100% Triclopyr 
  • **Multiple treatments will be required

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