Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Devil’s claw bud and flower

with 13 comments

Here’s Proboscidea louisianica, called devil’s claw, not long for this world
at a construction site along Duval Rd. in northwest Austin on September 8.

The glandular hairs confirm that this flower is a gooey one,
and that accounts for the many clinging bits of grit you see.
Backlighting accounts for the translucence in the second picture.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 28, 2019 at 4:45 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

13 Responses

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  1. The sinister name of this flower prompted me to google. I learned that the devil’s claw is being sold as herbal medicine in our drugstores. Is this the plant you photographed, Steve?

    Peter Klopp

    September 28, 2019 at 7:43 AM

  2. I took one look at Proboscidea and wondered if it was related to ‘proboscis.’ It seems that it is; one of the common names for the plant, ‘elephant tusks,’ makes sense when you look at the seed pods, especially since those ends resemble a raised elephant trunk. The etymology suggests an even more interesting link with botany.

    I do enjoy a fuzzy bud, and this is a nice one. Given that it grows in the southwest and Mexico, I suspect the hairs help to maintain moisture, too. The flower’s pretty; it reminds me of catalpa blossoms.


    September 28, 2019 at 6:38 PM

    • Proboscidea is so close to proboscis it would be rare indeed if the two words weren’t related. (Appearances can be deceiving, however: many people have trouble believing that Spanish día and Engish day, which sound similar and mean the same thing, are in fact etymologically unrelated.) With regard to the root underlying the Greek words in the article you linked to, I wish I knew something about Greek to have a better feel for the connections.

      In Austin I’ve never heard this plant referred to by any name other than devil’s claw. I wonder where (assuming it’s a geographic thing) people call it elephant tusks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 28, 2019 at 9:49 PM

  3. I see the claw although only by suggestion. It looks more like those costumes royalty might wear on a throne. Pretty flower.

    Steve Gingold

    September 28, 2019 at 6:47 PM

  4. I am sorry to hear this devil’s claw is not long for this world. Interestingly ( for me, at least) I was pondering common religious/folkloric names for plants yesterday when I came across this article. I am pleased I can add devil’s claw to my ponderings. https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/f/flowers-religious-names.php?fbclid=IwAR2LcxMsqOY2f1gIoeynF1w8t3N9e_eZkvf7dM8-frpl69_frOumJfmqz44


    September 29, 2019 at 7:47 AM

    • That’s quite a compendium of religious flower names you found. I hope it gave you data for what you’re pursuing (perhaps a post?). I see the page you linked to is from the University of Dayton in Ohio. You may or may not have made the connection to Dayton, which is where the Wright Brothers lived, and where Eve and I visited the field of wildflowers on the piece of prairie that the brothers used to refine their early airplane.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 29, 2019 at 10:28 AM

      • Oh bother, I didn’t make that connection although I did wonder why Dayton, Ohio was ringing some bells for me. Obviously the bells didn’t ring loudly enough.


        October 2, 2019 at 7:58 AM

  5. Devil’s Claw is prolific here, especially down near the Washita River where I hike often this time of year. The plant is quite tolerant of the summer heat, and tends to grow in the poorest soil. What I love on my winter hikes is to find long clusters of the dried “claws”. I generally give them away to friends who do home decoration with them. The claws are razor sharp, and some are quite large – perhaps big as your hand. Transporting them home is always interesting.

    I would guess the name comes from the sharp claw ends. Once ensnared in those hooks, one would have a helluva time getting free, at the very least the claw would leave its mark, drawing blood.


    November 17, 2019 at 8:21 PM

    • I wish devil’s claw were as prolific here as it is near you. Even though people may dislike the plant because of the damage its “claws” sometimes do, I’m always happy for the chance to photograph the flowers and the curving pods, both of which I find photogenic. I remember one time when a sharp tip got caught in one of my socks. I stopped and removed it before it did any damage to my skin. I guess animals can’t always get the hooks out as easily as people can.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2019 at 9:23 AM

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