Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pesky Plant

There's a plant from the genus Desmodium (Fabaceae) all over the place down here in our field sites.  It ranges everywhere from about 10 cm high all the way up to plants taller than I am.  When I first started a few weeks ago, mostly it was still flowering.  Since that time, it has gone to fruit, and it produces these special legumes called "loments" with an exterior that is very, very sticky (like microvelcro or something).  These "seeds" are now sticking to everything, and I mean absolutely everything.  All you have to do is brush against a loment and it sticks in pieces or as a whole section to your shoes, pants, shirt, skin, facial hair, you name it.  At the end of a day of field work, you can be covered in these suckers.  Our office back at the lab has them all over the carpet, and some people have been arranging the loments into little pictures and mosaics...

The most annoying this about this plant and its tenacious dispersal mechanism arrives (as I recently discovered) when you go to do laundry...  if you don't get all of the loments off your clothes beforehand, then end up in every bit of your clean clothes.  Alas, I just spent a half hour picking them out of my clean underwear, socks, shirts, etc, etc.  Sigh.

I kind of wonder where these seeds will end up if I toss them in the garbage?  Would they have a chance at some sort of long-distance dispersal event and establishment of a new population?  Or do they end up buried so deep that they are unable to germinate?  I usually try to pick the seeds off and leave them behind me as close to where I picked them up as possible, but sometimes I definitely miss some.  And I don't want to just chuck them outside my door.... Hmmm.  The conundrums of attempting to be a conscientious ecologist and understanding invasion biology...

(Images are from an archive of plant photos maintained by the University of Texas, Austin, check it out here)

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