En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
10 ratings

Friday - November 11, 2011

From: Leander, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Seeds and Seeding, Wildflowers
Title: Desmodium spp. (beggar's lice) in Leander TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our home backs up to a greenbelt on Blockhouse Creek in Williamson County, Texas (FM 1431 and Parmer Lane). The combination of the flood and drought has left our beautiful greenbelt with an abundance of beggar's lice (I can't find them in the plant database, sorry). These are the little fuzzy velcro seeds that stick like glue to socks and pets. The plants had already gone to seed when our one major rain came in October. Now the whole greenbelt is covered in seedlings for this horrible plant. I'm hoping we have a hard freeze that kills all the seedlings. If not, I'm not sure the natives stand a chance against the army that is forming. While the natives are dormant, should I try and apply an herbicide, plant other natives, mow, etc.? The waterway is mostly shaded with large Cedar Elms and Sycamores, a few Pecan, Mulberry, Red Oaks and (sadly) China Berry. Not a lot of underbrush (probably because of the 2009 flood) and a lot of flood-scoured surface for these seeds to use. Thanks for any help you can provide.

ANSWER:

Since we were not familiar with that particular common name, we went hunting and found this website from University of Missouri Extension on Beggar's Lice. This gave us the genus name, Desmodium, by which we could search on on our Native Plant Database. There are 13 members of this genus native to Texas and one, Desmodium sessilifolium (Sessileleaf ticktrefoil), is native to Williamson County, as you can see from this USDA Plant Profile Map.

While we can understand your concern about this plant becoming invasive, and certainly the nuisance factor of seeds clinging to clothing, we could find no indication in our research that it was a plant to be concerned about. As you will learn from this Illinois Wildflowers site, it is pollinated by bees, and is a larval host to several butterflies. Wild turkeys and Bobwhite quail feed on the seed, while the plant is browsed by deer, horses, rabbits, cattle and other herbivores.

Because it is native and not considered invasive, we don't believe it will be a threat to your greenbelt. It blooms in July and August and, as you say, seeds out after the blooms in the Fall. It makes a very pretty show of wildflowers at a time of year when not many are blooming. It is a perennial that spreads itself by seeding, so you could leave it for the flowering,  the pollinators and browsers, after which it could be mowed before it seeds out. It can then return in the Spring from the roots. Since it is a legume, it also, like bluebonnets, injects nitrogen into the soil, which is utilized by other plants.

We would definitely discourage the use of herbicides. This plant flourishes in a prairie ecosystem, and any herbicide applied would damage other species valuable to that ecosystem.

Pictures

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Sessileleaf ticktrefoil
Desmodium sessilifolium

More Pests Questions

Insect infestation, identification and treatment
April 21, 2008 - help! I have an infestation of small flies in my flower/vegetable beds. They seem to be eating the leaves of just about everything. I've tried to find out exactly what they are, but haven't had any ...
view the full question and answer

Replacing Weeds with Native Plants in Dallas Area
May 29, 2011 - I have a large oak tree in my front yard and lots and lots of miscellaneous weeds (clover, chickweed, stickers, etc.). I am wanting to grow grass in my front yard, that is shaded pretty much most of t...
view the full question and answer

Keeping bugs out of a Texas home
June 29, 2015 - I'm slowly growing my gardens into natural habitats for birds, bees, butterflies and other little critters but would like to keep them outside of my house. Being in central Texas it is difficult to ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Arizona Ash from Naco AZ
May 19, 2013 - Hi Mr. Smarty.. Live in southeast corner of Az. My Az. Ash is diseased. Just noticed leaves are curled, (still green) and when I open the leaf it has a zillion little white, what look like mites ...
view the full question and answer

Replacements for yuccas from Georgetown TX
August 07, 2013 - I have lost some softleaf and variegated yucca to a beetle grub destroying the root system - like the Agave snout beetle does. I have put an insecticidal drench on my remaining plants, but suspect wi...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center