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Conservation-My Not-So-Friend in the Woods By: Kevin Williams, Grundy County Conservation Director

November 19, 2012
Northern-Sun Print
I took a trip around the woods a few weeks ago. I was looking for the perfect spot to hang a treestand. When doing that, I commonly have my eyes focused in the branches of the trees rather than the smaller plants that make up the understory. When I finally glanced down I noticed that my pantlegs were covered with seeds. And not only the pants. I quickly noticed my sweatshirt had more than its share, too. There are several plants that produce seeds we commonly call hitchhikers. Their method of seed dispersal is sticking to and catching a ride with an animal – generally mammals and many times specifically humans. Plants can locate into new areas by one of two methods. One method is vegetatively. Strawberrries do this by sending out runners that then root and become established on their own. The other more common method is through seed dispersal. Some produce seeds that float with the wind. Others taste really good and are carried and buried or eaten and “pass through” in another location. And then there are the kind that I had all over me. The hitchhikers. They become stuck in fur or feathers, or clothes. The seeds plaguing me after this particular trip into the woods was Hackelia virginiana. You might know it as Beggar’s Lice. Or Beggar’s Ticks. Or Stcktights. Or Stickseeds. Or Stickweed. That’s the problem with common names. What is called one thing out East is probably called something else in the Midwest. It’s flowers are negligible and it’s leaves coarse and rough. And it’s fruits... well what else can I say but they are a nasty bit of work. Just brush against stickweed in the fall, and huge clumps of its barbed fruits end up clinging tightly to you. Watch out for it in the woods because I am convinced that it lies in wait for unsuspecting and distracted bowhunters (and other hikers).

Article Photos

Beggar’s Lice waiting for an unsuspecting hiker to spread its seed.



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