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News Story
Updated: 07/24/2014 08:00:01AM

Sandspurs, sticktights and beggarticks

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ARCADIAN PHOTO BY AL SMOKE

An encounter with sandspurs is an unforgettable experience. This weedy grass thrives in sandy poorly nourished soils. The seed capsule is armed with numerous barbed hooks that cling to clothing or animal fur. When you try to pull sandspurs off, they just embed in your fingers. The trick to removing sandspurs is to wet your fingers first—then the barbs won’t stick.

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ARCADIAN PHOTO BY AL SMOKE

Spanish needles is a native plant that thrives in our area. Although it has “sticktight” seeds, it is worth tolerating because the dainty white blooms with typically 5 petals and yellow centers attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. This plant may be found blooming nearly all year round, making it a good mainstay for a native plant area.

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Plants have developed many different methods of disbursing seeds, from flossy strands that travel on the slightest of breezes to being able to survive the digestive tracts of the creatures that eat the fleshy berry or drupe that encloses the seeds. One of the most interesting methods of seed dispersal is hitchhiking on unsuspecting hosts to carry the seeds to new destinations. Just as we depend on plants for survival, some plants depend on other creatures to help distribute their seeds. Special attachment mechanisms allow seeds to adhere to the fur of animals or man’s clothing.

An encounter with sandspurs is an unforgettable experience. This weedy grass thrives in sandy, poorly nourished soils. Sandspur seeds actually grow better in poor soils where nitrogen fertilizer is low. Although sandspurs grow in the same spot year after year, they are an annual plant — which means they take one growing season to germinate and produce seed for the next season. Seeds germinate in spring, and by the end of summer produce several seed heads. It is a thick-bladed grass that blends in with other grasses until we begin to notice the sandspurs in midsummer.

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