Harpagophytum zeyheri (Pedaliaceae) – devils’ claw Seed
Seed from the Kew Millennium Seed Bank collection at Wakehurst, outside London in the UK.
Harpagophytum zeyheri (Pedaliaceae) – devils’ claw, grapple plant; native to southern Africa (widespread in southern Africa, from Namibia and Zambia south to Botswana and Zimbabwe) – fruit with large woody grapples adapted to cling to the feet and fur of animals. The tough feet of ostriches are well protected against the sharp spines of this fruit but animals with cleft hoofs or relatively soft soles can suffer terrible wounds. The Khoisan peoples of the Kalahari Desert have used the tuberous root of the devil’s claw for thousands of years to treat pain during pregnancy and to prepare ointments to heal sores, boils and other skin problems. Extracts from dried roots are presently sold as a natural remedy against pain and inflammation caused by arthritis and other painful ailments; length of fruit: 9cm. --- THE FRUIT YOU PHOTOGRAPHED BELONGS TO HARPAGOPHYTUM ZEYHERI, WHICH IS VERY SIMILAR TO HARPAGOPHYTUM PROCUMBENS; THE TWO SPECIES MAINLY DIFFER IN GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION AND THE STRUCTURE OF THEIR FRUITS; The fruits of H. procumbens have very long, curved arms, while those of H. zeyheri are much less extravagant (pretty cool as mousetraps but the plants have significant medicinal properties! See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpagophytum). Both species are probably used in the same way by the Khoisan bush people as well as the pharmaceutical industry.
The most infamous member of the sesame family is Harpagophytum procumbens, aptly called grappling hook, grapple plant or, like its New World relatives, devil’s claw. Used as mouse traps in Madagascar, the almost preposterously horrid looking woody pods can inflict gruesome wounds to animals with cleft hoofs or relatively soft soles.