The Sticky World of Sticktights

By Patricia Gundrum

Walking through woods and fields the past few months, one may encounter several types of persistent stick tights. Sticktights refer to plant seeds that come in many shapes and sizes, comprise numerous plant families and stick tenaciously to clothing, shoes and animal fur. A few local examples include:

Both Hackelia virginiana (beggar’s lice) and Cynoglossum officinale (houndstongue) are members of the Boraginaceae, commonly known as the forget-me-not or borage family. These biennial plants produce petite blue flowers. However, these flowers give rise to stick tight seeds that are notoriously difficult to remove from clothing and animal fur.  

Agrimonia sp. has small yellow flowers and is a member of the Rosaceae. The fruits look like small spinning tops with tiny hooks.

Desmodium sp. contains numerous species and is a vining member of the Leguminosae (bean) family. The chains of flattened triangular fruits are produced from pink flowers. Commonly known as tick trefoils, the seeds have a rough texture that adheres to clothing. 

Bidens sp. are known as beggars ticks or Spanish needles in the Asteraceae family.  The elongated seed have needle like bristles that grab onto fabric and hair.  

Sanicula canadensis (black snakeroot) is a member of the Apiaceae family and produces bur-like fruit which splits into two seeds.  

Arctium minus’s common name is burdock. This biennial in the Asteraceae family is the original inspiration for the ultimate invention of Velcro.