Sensitive Briar

Mimosa quadrivalvis (also Schrankia nuttallii)
Other Common Name
Catclaw Sensitive Briar; Devil's Shoestrings; Devil's Shoelaces

Fabaceae (beans)


Sensitive briar is a trailing or creeping perennial of dry areas, entirely covered by hooked barbs. Flowers in ball-shaped heads on long stalks arising from leaf axils; florets many, funnel-shaped, pink to rose-colored, with yellow-tipped stamens protruding. Blooms May–September. Leaves alternate, double-compound, with 13–15 primary divisions that are again divided into 8–16 tiny leaflets (called pinnules). These small leaflets are sensitive to touch and can fold and close like those of the related mimosa tree. Fruit a slender, very prickly pod to 3½ inches long, splitting lengthwise into four parts when mature.


Stem length: to 4 feet.


Photo of sensitive brier leaves
Sensitive Brier (Catclaw Sensitive Brier) (Leaves)

Sensitive Brier

Bright purple flowers with yellow tips
Sensitive Brier found in Elkland

Sensitive Briar-20180602-1616.jpeg

A pink spherical flower with yellow stamens rises from double-compound leaves
Sensitive briar in Lichen Glade Conservation Area
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in glades, upland prairies, savannas, openings of dry upland forests, old fields, ditches, railroads, roadsides, and (rarely) open, disturbed areas.

image of Sensitive Brier Catclaw Sensitive Brier distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide except northeastern Missouri and Southeast Lowlands.

Human connections

Rural children learn not to run through prairies barefoot because of the sprawling, scratchy stems of this plant, also called "devil's shoelaces." Sensitive brier is desirable in pastures, providing nutritious food for all kinds of livestock while improving the soil with its nitrogen-fixing ability.

Ecosystem connections

Quail and other birds eat the seeds, and wild turkey and deer eat the foliage. The flowers produce pollen but no nectar, and a variety of different bees are the primary pollinators. They scrape pollen from the whole head as if it were a single flower.