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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - February 17, 2013

From: Golden Meadow, LA
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of plant with seed heads like goat head
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Sir, I collected some bizarre seed heads from some rough weeds around a stock tank in SE New Mexico. They resemble goat heads, with two long curving horns. I have photos but couldn't figure out how to send. I'd very much like these to be ID'd. Thanks.

ANSWER:

This sounds like one of the unicorn plants (Ram's Horns or Devil's Claws), Genus Proboscidea.  There are four species that occur in New Mexico, three of which occur in our Native Plant Database.  Without flowers or leaves you probably won't be able to determine which of the species your seed cases are from, but you can see exactly where each has been found in New Mexico by clicking on New Mexico on the distribution map for each of the species on its USDA Plants Database page:

  1. Proboscidea althaeifolia (Desert unicorn-plant)  Here are photos and more information from Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and Southwest Environmental Information Network and photos from CalPhotos BerkeleyDistribution map for New Mexico.
  2. Proboscidea louisianica (Devil's claw)  Here are photos and more information from Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and from W. J. Beal Botanical Garden at Michigan State University and photos from Southwest Environmental Information NetworkDistribution map for New Mexico.
  3. Proboscidea parviflora (Doubleclaw) Here are more photos and information from Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and Southwest Environmental Information NetworkDistribution map for New Mexico.
  4. Proboscidea sabulosa (Sanddune unicorn-plant)  This one doesn't occur in our Native Plant Database and it is considered rare in New Mexico.   You can see more information and a photo of the flowers on New Mexico Rare Plants and photos from Southwest Environmental Information Network. Distribution map for New Mexico.

Here is an interesting article about the Devil's Claws from Wayne's World.

 

From the Image Gallery


Louisiana devil's-claw
Proboscidea louisianica

Louisiana devil's-claw
Proboscidea louisianica

Doubleclaw
Proboscidea parviflora

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