Take a walk in tall grasses this time of year and you’ll  likely pick up all sorts of hitchhikers (yes, we called them “hitchhikers” as kids)  As a  mom, I tend to find these indoors more than out: on socks, coveralls, the dryer lint screen, bath towels.

The typical varieties around here are Agrimony and Tall Beggar’s Ticks.

Agrimony Seeds

Agrimony’s aliases should clue us in:  “Cockeburr,”  “Sticklewort,” “Philanthropos” (maybe because it gives freely of its seeds?). It’s a lovely native plant—with tall, showy spikes in the late summer. The seeds rely on passersby (human and/or animal) to pick up and unknowingly deposit them elsewhere.

Tall Beggar's Ticks

Tall Beggar’s Ticks have unique prongs which grab at any soft material—a shirt, dog hair, etc. Nathaniel, my son, upon seeing the collection on my pants promptly said, “Mom, pull those out gently because if the spikes break in the material, it’ll bother you for days!” I agreed. Just one plant can yield hundreds of prickly-pronged seeds.

In 1941, a Swiss engineer returned from a walk with his dog and found burdock seeds lodged in the animal’s fur. After careful microscopic scrutiny, he became fascinated by the “hook and loop construction” that he saw. Do you know what he invented?