Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
12 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 Seeds and Seeding Questions

Mountain ash seedlings in Yorkshire, England
May 25, 2008 - Is there any way I can stop Mountain Ash from seeding in my garden. This year in particular, I am absolutely overrun with the seedlings and once they get a hold they are difficult to remove.
view the full question and answer

Will Habiturf be chicken feed from New Caney TX
November 21, 2013 - How well does your recommended native turf grass mix hold up against chickens or do double duty as feed? I have a mixed use property that will house Rabbits, Poultry (chickens/duck/geese), and ev...
view the full question and answer

Seeding the banks of a large pond
October 18, 2011 - I have a 2 acre surface pond that is mostly a hard clay bank all around. The water level is way down and I will begin filling it very soon. I need to somehow being affordable, plant something or thing...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating black locust volunteers in Rockville MD
September 27, 2011 - I am a landscape designer whose client has a very large, mature black locust in her front yard. Not surprisingly, she also has multitudes of black locust volunteers popping up all over her yard. The...
view the full question and answer

Resprouting of native prairie plants after snowstorm
April 07, 2007 - Will my prairie plants that have broken dormancy be harmed by a spring snowstorm? Temperatures have fallen down into the twenties and forecast to stay sub-freezing for five or six days. We have abou...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.