As a New Englander, I was clueless when I saw this pod in an old 19th century seed catalog. It grabbed my attention!
When I started to look it up it quickly became apparent it is a common, if not especially popular, plant grown as both a flower and also as a pod to be pickled when young. It is the martynia, or cats claw, or devil's claw plant.
Described in a Mother Earth News article as a sort of "super okra" I wrote it off immediately as a food.
The article is very worth reading, however, both for some history and for cultivation advice. They say if you can grow tomatoes, you can grow martynia.
This link, goes to a fascinating gathering of martynia related information and photos, including detail on the Native American uses for the pods. You'll like it...go there.
Below are odds and end I scooped up. The Martynia family is full of weird seed capsules.
However, it seems martynia has a more exotic side, or at least some gardeners perceive it as desirable.
Mrs. Jane Loudon, in her 1840 book The Ladies' Flower-garden of Ornamental Annuals presents it as a handsome flower, although admittedly not much grown.
Makes a great illustration in her book! I think the plant as a whole must have a rather coarse look, or at least not a garden flower style, from what I read.
GENERIC CHARACTER.—Drupe oblong, bicornute at the apex; the anterior horn sulcately-toothed, containing a 4-celled nut; cells few-seeded.—(G. Don.)
DESCRIPTION, &c.—The genus Martynia, which was named by Houston in honour of Professor Martyn, editor of Miller's Dictionary, &c., is nearly allied to the genera Bignonia and Tecoma; and the species are remarkable for their showy flowers, horny capsules, and oily seeds.
1.—MARTYNIA PROBOSCIDEA - THE HORNY, OR PROBOSCIS-LIKE MARTYNIA.
Specific CHARACTER.–Stem branched; leaves alternate, lobed, DESCRIPTION, &c.—A very curious plant, covered with glutinous hairs. The flowers are somewhat bell shaped, and are dotted and variegated with several shades of colour; the lobes of the stigma are irritable, and close when touched. The capsules or seed-vessels are a kind of nut, quite hard and woody, and terminating in two beaks or horns. The plant was a native of Louisiana (where it was first discovered on the banks of the Mississippi), and Mexico, and was introduced about 1759; seeds of it being sent by Richard, the French king's gardener at Versailles, to the celebrated Miller, who was then curator of the botanic garden at Chelsea. It was first kept in the hothouse, and treated as a half-hardy annual; but it is now found to succeed in the open border, if sown in April or May, in a light rich soil and warm situation. The seeds, like those of all oily plants, do not keep well; and thus, generally, only a few of those sown come up. The plant has a strong erect stem, and does not require sticking. Seeds may be procured at Carter's, Holborn, and other seed-shops.( Native Seeds has a good newsletter on this variety. It has been used by native people for both food and for basket making. )
2.—MARTYNLA LUTEA - THE YELLOW MARTYNIA.
Specific CHARACTER.-Stem branched, clothed with glandular down. Beaks much longer than the pericarp.—(G. Don.)DESCRIPTION, &c.—The habit of the plant resembles that of M. proboscidea, but the flowers are of a bright orange yellow. It is a native of Brazil, introduced in 1825. The culture is the same as that of the preceding species.
3.–MARTYNIA DIANDRA, Glor. THE DIANDROUS MARTYNIA.
DESCRIPTION, &c.—The spike of flowers of this species grows differently to that of all other kinds; and instead of being terminal, it always springs from a fork between the stem and branches. The flowers are very curiously marked. The leaves and calyxes are of a pale green, and the latter have a sort of involucre formed of two delicate membranous bracteas of a beautiful pale pink.
The whole plant has rather an unpleasant smell.
It is a native of Vera Cruz, Mexico, and was introduced in 1731. It is rather more tender than the other species, but in favourable situations it grows above two feet high, while the others rarely exceed a foot or eighteen inches. It should be grown in rich light soil, in a warm border in front of a south wall.
M. LONGIFLORA, Lin. : M. CAPENSIS, Glor.The flowers of this species are very long, and purple. It is a native of the Cape of Good Hope, and was introduced in 1781, but has long been lost to our gardens.