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SPECIES:  Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera
Catclaw mimosa in desert shrubland. Image used with permission of George & Eve DeLange.



SPECIES: Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Uchytil, Ronald J. 1990. Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : MIMACUB SYNONYMS : Mimosa biuncifera Benth. Mimosa lindheimeri A. Gray [2,21,23] NRCS PLANT CODE : MIACB COMMON NAMES : catclaw mimosa cat-claw mimosa paired-thorn mimosa wait-a-minute wait-a-bit wait-a-minute bush TAXONOMY : The scientific name of catclaw mimosa is Mimosa aculeaticarpa Ortega var. biuncifera (Benth.) Barneby. It is a legume and a and member of the bean family (Fabaceae) [44,45]. LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Catclaw mimosa occurs in central and southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, western and central Texas, and northern Mexico [18,39].
Distribution of catclaw mimosa. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [38]. [2018, January 25].
   FRES30  Desert shrub
   FRES32  Texas savanna
   FRES33  Southwestern shrubsteppe
   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub
   FRES35  Pinyon - juniper
   FRES38  Plains grasslands


    7  Lower Basin and Range
   12  Colorado Plateau
   13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont

   K023  Juniper - pinyon woodland
   K031  Oak - juniper woodlands
   K032  Transition between K031 and K037
   K043  Paloverde - cactus shrub
   K044  Creosotebush - tarbush
   K058  Grama - tobasa shrubsteppe
   K059  Trans-Pecos shrub savanna
   K085  Mesquite - buffalograss

    66  Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper
    68  Mesquite
   239  Pinyon - juniper
   241  Western live oak


Catclaw mimosa occurs in many vegetation types, generally as scattered
plants intermixed with numerous other shrubs.  It is occasionally the
most abundant shrub.  In low elevation desert grassland and shrub-steppe
types, catclaw mimosa is often associated with other shrubby species,
including mesquites (Prosopis spp.), redberry juniper, oneseed juniper
(Juniperus monosperma), allthorn (Koeberlimia spinosa), catclaw acacia
(Acacia greggii), larchleaf goldenweed (Haplopappus laricifolius),
smooth sotol (Dasylirion leiophyllum), Wheeler sotol (D. wheeleri),
lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla), and goldeneye (Viguiera stenoloba)
[11,25,36,37].  Catclaw mimosa is a common plant in the lower elevations
of Arizona chaparral.  Catclaw acacia and catclaw mimosa sometimes
become abundant on drier, rockier, more open sites in Arizona chaparral
[30].  Catclaw mimosa occurs as scattered individuals in oak, oak-pine,
and evergreen woodlands with an overstory made up of one or more of the
following trees: gray oak (Quercus grisea), Arizona white oak (Q.
arizonica), Emory oak (Q. emoryi), Mohr's oak (Q. mohriana), Mexican
pinyon (Pinus cembroides), pinyon pine (P. edulis), and alligator
juniper (Juniperus deppeana) [12,17,29,40].  Associated shrubs in
woodlands include fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), skunkbush sumac (R.
trilobata), beargrass (Nolina microcarpa, N. erumperus), birchleaf
mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides), Wright silktassel (Garrya
wrightii), yerba-de-pasmo (Baccharis pteronoides), and desert broom
(Baccharis sarothroides) [12,29,40].

Published classification schemes listing catclaw mimosa as a indicator
or dominant are listed below:

Vegetation of the Organ Mountains, New Mexico [12]
Woodland communities and soils of Fort Bayard, southwestern New Mexico [29]


SPECIES: Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Livestock seldom browse catclaw mimosa; however, it may be used lightly if other forage is scarce [20,39].  Livestock eat the pods [10].  Scaled and Gambel's quail eat the seeds [16].  It is of minor importance as a browse plant for deer and pronghorn [5,39]. PALATABILITY : Catclaw mimosa has dense prickles and a tangled growth form which may account for its relatively low palatability to livestock [10].  The pods are highly palatable to cattle, and the seeds are highly palatable to quail [10,16].  In western Texas, the palatability of catclaw mimosa has been rated good for pronghorn but poor for cattle and sheep [5]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Catclaw mimosa has a tendency to form thickets, which presumably provide hiding and thermal cover for a variety of small wildlife species.  Quail use such thickets [34]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Catclaw mimosa shows potential for erosion control.  Plants have a tendency to form thickets which effectively bind soil [24,39].  OTHER USES AND VALUES : Catclaw mimosa flowers provide a good source of nectar for honey bees [39]. This plant has been studied as a source of biomass for the production of fuels and chemicals.  In comparison with 100 other plant species examined, it yielded substantial amounts of oils, polyphenols, and hydrocarbons [8]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Catclaw mimosa is moderately resistant to phenoxy herbicides [19].


SPECIES: Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Catclaw mimosa is a relatively short, straggling, thicket-forming, deciduous shrub.  It is usually not more than 3 feet (0.9 m) tall but occasionally grows up to about 8 feet (2.4 m) [6,24].  The pubescent, slender, straight to zig-zagging stems are armed with solitary or paired, stout, recurved spines [39].  The bipinnately compound leaves contain 3 to 9 pair of pinnae with 8 to 14 pairs of obtuse, linear to oblong, 0.04 to 0.17 inch (1.0-4.2 mm) long leaflets [39].  Numerous pale to whitish flowers occur in globose heads.  The fruit is a curved or straight legume, 0.75 to 1.5 inch (1.9-3.8 cm) long, 0.13 to 0.17 inch (3.2-4.2 mm) wide, and is constricted between the seeds.
Catclaw mimosa flowers. Image used with permission of George & Eve DeLange.

Catclaw mimosa produces abundant seed.  Seeds are encased within small,
narrow pods that split open after ripening [34].  Primary dispersal
agents have not been identified, but seed is probably dispersed by
animals that eat the pods or seeds.  Catclaw mimosa seeds exhibit high
germination rates and germinate over a wide range of temperatures [22].
On the High Plains of west Texas, redberry juniper (Juniperus
pinchotii) acts as a nurse plant for catclaw mimosa.  The closed canopy
and heavy mulch layer associated with redberry juniper apparently
provides a favorable microenvironment for catclaw mimosa seedling
establishment [28].

Catclaw mimosa sprouts from the root crown following damage to the
aboveground portion of the plant, such as by fire or herbicides [19[.

Catclaw mimosa occurs on gravelly flats, mesas, and rocky slopes in
desert grass, desert shrub, interior chaparral, pinyon-juniper, open
oak, and pine-oak communities [6,12,24,29,40]. 

Soils:  In western Texas, catclaw mimosa often occupies soils derived
from limestone or igneous rock [34]. 

Elevation:  Elevational ranges are presented below [4,24,34]:

from 2,000 to 5,000 feet (610-1,524 m) in w TX
     3,000 to 6,000 feet (914-1,829 m) in AZ
     4,300 to 5,600 feet (1,311-1,707 m) in the Rincon Mtns, se AZ

Catclaw mimosa is a common component of interior chaparral, a vegetation
type considered to be a true climatic climax susceptible to large-scale
burning [6].  This plant's sprouting ability allows it to become a part
of the immediate postfire community.  Individual plants may live to be
very old, although the aboveground portion may date back only to the
last fire [33].

Catclaw mimosa is considered an invader of desert and semiarid
grasslands [20,34].  Fire suppression and livestock grazing are thought
to be responsible for the spread of shrubs into what is considered to
have been relatively shrub-free grasslands of the Southwest [41].
Although catclaw mimosa is fire tolerant and a high percentage of plants
survive fire, a combination of frequent fires, droughts, competition,
and browsing by rodents and lagomorphs may have suppressed plants in
presettlement times [41].  Cattle reportedly "devour the pods" [10].
This undoubtedly has aided the spread of catclaw mimosa into grasslands
because seeds are probably scarified as they pass through the digestive
tract and are then deposited in nutrient-rich dung, which aids

The time of flowering for two Southwestern states is presented below:

    State          Time of Flowering        Authority

     AZ               May - August            [24]
     TX            April - September          [34]


SPECIES: Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Catclaw mimosa is able to sprout from the root crown following top-kill by fire [6,20].  Hibbert and others [19] report that catclaw mimosa is fire tolerant and can rapidly recover by sprouting, even after repeated burns. Catclaw mimosa is common in Arizona chaparral.  Severe wildfires are common in this vegetation type as a result of heavy fuel accumulation and scant early summer rainfall [31].  Fire frequencies are generally between 20 to 80 or 100 years, although some stands may experience longer fire-free intervals [6].  Most chaparral species are well adapted to fire and recover quickly.  It takes at least 20 years before enough fuel accumulates to support a repeat fire, unless the area has been grass seeded [6]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this taxon may occur by entering the plant name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown


SPECIES: Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fires generally top-kill catclaw mimosa.  By itself, it provides little fuel because of its open growth form and because its small leaves contribute very little to ground fuels when they drop [25].  However, the fuel of surrounding plants is often enough to ignite catclaw mimosa and cause its stems to burn off [25].  Catclaw mimosa commonly occurs in Arizona chaparral where wildfires are often severe, defoliating all aboveground vegetation and leaving only charred stems and a layer of ash over mineral soil [31]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Following top-kill by fire, catclaw mimosa survives by producing numerous sprouts from the root crown [6,20].  Because plants usually survive fire, density is generally not affected by burning. Although catclaw mimosa was not abundant in a study in desert mountain shrub vegetation in the Guadalupe Mountains, sampling of several 3- to 7-year-old burns showed that its frequency was greater on burned than on unburned sites [1]. Rapid regrowth allows plants to fully recover prefire cover within about 5 years [25,32].  Regrowth of top-killed catclaw mimosa plants was observed following several lightning- and man-caused fires in and near Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico.  Here, top-killed plants sprouted and grew 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm) in one growing season [25]. Following prescribed spring burns in desert grasslands and oak woodlands in southeastern Arizona, sprouts of catclaw mimosa regained 58 to 67 percent of plant prefire heights within two growing seasons as summarized below [3].                  Emory oak/Arizona white oak       desert grassland                           woodland date sampled        mean height of plants        mean height of plants                   burned area  control area    burned area  control area                    inches/cm    inches/cm       inches/cm    inches/cm Aug 1983 (prefire)  21.8/55.4    17.8/45.4       25.2/63.9    18.7/47.4 Aug 1984 (3 months   8.9/22.6    17.5/44.7        4.9/12.5    11.5/29.2           postfire) Aug 1985 (15 months 14.6/37.0    16.4/41.7       14.6/37.0    15.8/40.1           postfire) This study was part of an extensive of body of research on fire effects in semidesert grassland, oak savanna, and Madrean oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona. See the Research Project Summary of this work for more information on burning conditions, fires, and fire effects on more than 100 species of plants, birds, small mammals, and grasshoppers. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Mimosa aculeaticarpa var. biuncifera
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