This is the time of year when plants exhibit their many strategies for moving around — moving their offspring (seeds), that is, to locations where they can establish the next generation. Animals play a key role by carrying the seeds of the fruits and nuts they eat to distant locations, deposited with a nice load of fertilizer, as well as unknowingly carrying seeds that hitch a ride on them as they pass by.
No plant has ever been more aptly named than the Virginia Stickseed , whose minute spikes on its seed coat adhere to most any fur or fabric at the slightest touch.
To stick to its transporter, seeds need “stickers”, and some plants have evolved such elaborate hooks and spikes, they are truly difficult to get off. Plus the tiny spikes occasionally break off and lodge themselves in your skin, as you try to remove them.
Another bane encountered on fall hikes is the seed head of Common Burdock, an introduced species that has found a home in disturbed areas, abandoned fields and pastures, or uncultivated roadsides. It’s an attractive plant with large leaves and purple tinged flowers in the spring and summer,
But once those seed heads mature, it’s difficult to avoid becoming entangled in the hooks that seem to jump off the plant onto your clothing.
There are numerous examples of how plants have hitchhiked on animal fur or feet; a few other examples are illustrated in this David Attenborough video from “The Private Lives of Plants”.