Well named, formidable thorns shaped like a cat’s claw cover branch and stem of this shrub. It grows to 7 feet (2 m) tall and almost as wide. A mature plant can be 100 years old, or more. It is found below 4600 feet (1400 m).
Gray-green leaves appear in May, followed by light yellow, fuzzy bottle-brush shaped flowers. The fruit is a flat, twisted, brown pod that appears in August.
Desert mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum), a parasite ,can often be found growing on catclaw. A black-crested bird, Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), visits the branches of catclaw to eat seeds of the mistletoe, and then deposits them, through its droppings, on other trees of the same species, spreading this parasite.