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Subject: South African devil's claw intercepted at Perth Airport
Date posted: November 15, 2001
Source: Western Australia Department of Agriculture
The fruit of South African Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), also known as grapple plant, has been intercepted at Perth International Airport in southwestern Australia, apparently carried in as a tourist souvenir. Harpagophytum procumbens is a perennial herb endemic to semi-arid regions of southern Africa with ripe fruits that bear hooked, woody arms. The fruit has potential for wreaking havoc with livestock and wild animals, causing injury to legs, mouth, and throat and, in extreme cases, starvation or asphyxiation. In addition, South African devil's claw displays characteristics of known invasive plants, being a generalist and therefore very competitive for nutrients, water, light, and space.

This species has traditionally been used as a folk remedy in Africa and is recognized as having analgesic, sedative and diuretic properties. It is used in Europe and, increasingly, the US as an herbal remedy to treat various ailments, including rheumatism, diabetes and allergies. Because of its economic value, H. procumbens is being groomed as a potential export crop in Southern Africa.