May 7, 2012 at 2:43 PM

Look Out For the Pod People

"It is a sprawling annual plant in very dry, disturbed soils in New Mexico and Arizona"

By Karen Denison

At Home Outdoors

Karen Denison is owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing guide service, a former biologist, and a shameless admirer of the outdoors.

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Look out for the pod people!  Actually, this scary-looking pod (approximately three inches long) belongs to a native plant Proboscidea parviflora, also called Unicorn Plant or Devil's Claw.  You may click on the photo for a closer look.

It is a sprawling annual plant in very dry, disturbed soils in New Mexico and Arizona.  When the seed pod is green, it is a single, curling "horn" (as in unicorn) which may be picked and used like okra.  It is somewhat gummy or sticky like okra, but can be fried or pickled.  As the pod dries, the single horn splits into two "claws" which can grab passers-by and hitch a ride to the next possible growing site.

A black-podded subspecies in Arizona with especially long pods has been used by the Hohokam people for generations for the black fibers in their beautiful basketry. Not so scary now!

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