Cat's Claw Creeper

​​​​​(Dolichandra unguis-cati)​

Legal status of cat’s claw creeper in Tasmania

  • Cat’s claw creeper is a declared weed under the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999. The importation, sale and distribution of cat’s claw creeper are prohibited in Tasmania.

  • Cat’s claw creeper is also a Weed of National Significance (WONS).

  • The legal responsibilities of landholders and other stakeholders in dealing with cat’s claw creeper are laid out in the Statutory Weed Management Plan for Cat’s Claw Creeper.

  • ​Cat’s claw creeper does not occur in Tasmania.

Cat’s claw creeper flowers, © Q'ld Gov’t.

What does cat’s claw creeper look like?

  • Cat’s claw creeper is a vigorous, perennial woody vine with large yellow trumpet flowers on numerous stems. Fruit develops as a long narrow capsule which contains numerous two-winged seeds with membranous wings that aid natural dispersal by wind and water.

  • Each leaf has a pair of lance-shaped leaflets 2-7 cm long x 1-3 cm wide. The plant’s name (‘cat’s claw’) refers to a modification to the third leaflet, forming a three-pronged tendril with stiff tips that form hooks to aid in climbing.


Cat's claw creeper infestation on building, © Q'ld Gov't.


​ Cats claw creeper infestation in bushland, © Q'ld Gov't​.

​Impacts of cat’s claw creeper

  • A pest of forestry, urban areas and infrastructure corridors, cat’s claw creeper has the capacity to completely alter intact native ecosystems. The vine smothers and collapses native vegetation, killing mature trees and opening up the canopy for light-loving weeds. In areas where there are no standing structures, it forms dense above-ground mats that prevent growth and germination of desirable understory vegetation.

  • Established plants can reproduce vegetatively from tubers and creeping stems that help make up an extensive root system. Detached tubers and cuttings may re-sprout in moist conditions to develop into climbing runners that colonise the surrounding vegetation.

  • Humans particularly aid spread by propagation in gardens and rubbish dumping, where large populations of reproductive subterranean tubers persist during adverse conditions.

Where does cat’s claw creeper occur?

  • Cat’s claw creeper is native to Central and South America and the West Indies where it has a distribution that covers several climatic zones, including wet tropics, temperate and tropical savannah. A popular horticultural plant now widely naturalised around the world, cat’s claw creeper was introduced to Australia as an ornamental species and was first reported as being naturalised in the 1950s.

  • Cat’s claw creeper has an east coast distribution that extends from Cooktown to south of Sydney, where it is widespread in urban and peri-urban areas. Although normally considered a tropical and sub-tropical species where it poses a significant risk to biodiversity in riparian and rainforest communities, in temperate regions where it has now established it is also expanding into adjacent dry sclerophyll forests.

  • Cat’s claw creeper grows in a range of soil types, but does not tolerate poorly drained soils. Plants are capable of surviving heavy frost, but germination is reduced at low temperatures and its general distribution seems to be limited by cold and dry stress.

  • Plant communities in Australia most commonly invaded by cat’s claw creeper are those in riparian zones and subtropical and tropical rainforests. These include littoral rainforest and river-flat eucalypt forest on coastal floodplains listed as endangered ecological communities in New South Wales.

  • Cat’s claw creeper is considered to be a low climate match for Tasmania.

  • For further information or help in identifying cat’s claw creeper, refer to the Commonwealth of Australia website, Weeds of National Significance - Cat’s claw creeper. If you are still in doubt about the weed you are dealing with, contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 for help.

What you need to do

  • If you locate cat’s claw creeper anywhere in Tasmania, or if you find a plant that you think could be cat’s claw creeper, immediately contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 to report this weed.

See also

Statutory Management Plan for Cat’s Claw Creeper
Weed Links and Resources
Weeds of National Significance - Cat’s claw creeper

Other useful links

Pest Genie

Important Disclaimer​
To the extent permitted by law, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (including its employees and consultants) excludes all liability to any person for any consequences, including but not limited to all losses, damages, costs, expenses and any other compensation, arising directly or indirectly from using information or material (in part or in whole) contained on this website.