Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beggar Lice and Treasure Hunts

One wildflower I love seeing in my yard is Desmodium, also known as Tick Tre-foil or Beggar Lice.  Nice nicknames, huh?  


There are many different species of Desmodium.  Many people consider them to be a weed, but I rather like the airy look of the ones in my garden.


Beggar Lice are a part of the pea family, clearly evidenced by their seed pods.


The seed pods are what give Beggar Lice a bad rap - I'm sure many of you have gone for a walk in the woods and found these seedpods stuck to your clothing afterwards.  (I'm assuming this talent for 'begging' a ride is the inspiration behind that particular nickname.)  The little hooked hairs on these seeds stick impressively well to anything that brushes against them.


Beggar Lice are important to wildlife as a source of food for animals such as the White-tailed Deer and Northern Bobwhite.   They are also host plants for several types of butterflies.

Long-tailed Skipper laying eggs on Desmodium leaf
It's rather fun to hunt for caterpillars on my Beggar Lice plants.  If I see a rolled leaf or two leaves stuck together, I know something is probably inside..


It's like a little treasure hunt.

Long-tailed Skipper caterpillar
Though it seems slightly dangerous somehow, doesn't it?  Who knows what might be inside!

Anyone know what this is?
Next time I shall post about my latest project in the garden.  My computer has been rather neglected lately with the beautiful weather beckoning me into the garden.  I'm enjoying it while it lasts!   

As always, happy gardening!

linking with Wildflower Wednesday

25 comments:

  1. Indie, I love this Beggar Lice, is very tender color and as you say, airy!

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    1. There are some varieties that are not quite so airy and delicate looking, but I think the blooms are such a pretty color!

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  2. Hi Indie
    I was almost scared to read your post! Lice, yikes!! But it turns out that it's quite a lovely flower. Your caterpillar and butterfly pictures are excellent.

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    1. Thank you! Isn't that such a terrible name for a plant?

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  3. Beggar Lice? What a terrible name for a beautiful plant - and a useful host plant too! You're very brave... I hate unfurling leaves - it usually leads to a deafening scream and ungainly hopping around the garden (very cool).

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    1. Ha, I must say, I think I've become a lot braver toward bugs since I started gardening and getting up close to them. Still, any bugs that get indoors are my husband's territory!

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  4. I think we had some of that in the woods around here - I remember a pretty plant and something sticking to my pants as I walked by. I have more respect for it now, but I don't think I'll be peeking inside of curled leaves - might be something scary in there!

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    1. Part of the thrill is not knowing what's inside, right? :) Thankfully I've never had anything jump out at me. If I did I would probably never open a leaf up again!

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  5. I never heard of these plants. Thanks for introducing them to me.

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    1. I think I have a couple varieties in my garden. It can be interesting to see what comes up when you let 'weeds' grow! (Yeah, uh, that's my excuse for not weeding so much...)

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  6. India!
    I welcome you very warmly.
    I am happy that I have not forgotten about me and my blog.
    Thank you very much.
    I am charmed by your blog, posts and fantastic photos !!!!!!
    From now on I will be hosting at you.
    Lucia

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    1. Thank you! I enjoy seeing the different places that your blog shows, as well!

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  7. What a great wildflower and one I would not consider a weed...I have not seen it here although it is a native and one I may have to find now!!

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    1. They just rather popped up in the yard, which was great. You'll have to go on a treasure hunt through the woods looking for it now! At least it's quite easy to get the seeds when you find the plant ;)

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  8. The garden comes first, these beautiful days we are experiencing won't last forever. Winter will be here soon enough, and then it's time to stay inside.

    Boo is driving us nuts, he meows constantly for food, demanding as many meals as we will give into...I find it hard to be creative when the cat is meowing all the time, lol.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. Our male cat is like that - nothing gets done until he gets fed! We feed him diet food, but he's still getting quite pudgy..

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  9. I like the pink flowers on our beggar's lice -- slightly darker than yours -- but I hate picking all those seed pods off my shoes which aren't in great shape to begin with.

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    1. They are persistent. When I was taking pictures of it, I thought I hadn't come close enough to it to brush against it. Of course, there were still some sticking to my shirt!

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  10. The flowers are so sweet~I have a Desmodium (many~they do spread a bit) in my garden and am so glad to learn even more about it. I've seen that ow I will look closer to see evidence of cats! Happy WW

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    1. It's rather fun. They are good hiders! I love the flowers on them. They are such a pretty color!

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  11. I think I've seen them in the woods, too, but didn't realize they were called Beggar's Lice. That doesn't seem fair. Thanks for the sweet post and the great information.

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    1. I feel like whoever named them that was angry at them for some reason! I've heard that they can also be a nuisance to pick off all the seeds off of pets if you have one that goes outside. It is quite a terrible name!

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  12. I wasn't familiar with this plant, but I'm going to remember these pretty little blooms as Desmodium, a far prettier name than Beggar's Lice! It makes you wonder who comes up with these names anyway. The blossoms remind me a little of sweetpeas, so I can definitely see the family resemblance.

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    1. Last year I was trying to identify the plant, and as soon as I saw the seeds I knew it had to be in the pea family! It's been so long since I've seen sweet peas. It's too hot for them to grow really well here, unfortunately.

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  13. That grows wild here as well and it does have sweet little flowers. My garden is currently covered with Beggar's Ticks. These nicknames are not good. lol

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