Proboscidea louisianica subsp. fragrans (in the Martyniaceae) is currently flowering in the window sill and as its name suggest it has a beautiful fragrance! I’ve tried unsuccessfully growing it outside in the past, so this time I was given seed I’m trying it as an edible house plant. Its English names are variously devil’s claw, unicorn-plant, ram’s horn, aphid trap, goat’s head and elephant tusks. Sadly only one seed germinated and it only rarely self-pollinates (bees do the work, so I’ve been playing the bee using a paint brush…on the off-chance I might get a fruit). The fruits are sometimes compared with okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) or even the climbing cucurbit, achocha (Cyclanthera spp.) from South America. Years ago in 2007, I did get one fruit when I grew it in my old unheated greenhouse:
The unripe seed pods were traditionally cooked as a vegetable and added to soups or pickled and the leaves were also used as a potherb with beans. The immature oil rich seeds were also eaten raw or were roasted or dried and eaten like pine nuts.
Apart from being an important food plant for First Peoples, the dried seed pods were also incorporated into basketry to make patterns, plants were even selected for longer claws and used for sewing and a black dye was also obtained.
However, I’ll probably just enjoy it as a fragrant unusual house plant with a potential for food and hope it will live up to its alternative name, aphid trap!
And finally, one of Tom Hare’s wonderful art installations, Devil’s Claw, in Kew Gardens in 2011: