Beggarweed, Beggartick – Identification
Q: This is a weed seed to beat all weed seeds. I thought I had been attacked by plants before, but this was ridiculous. I saw a weed along the fence in our road, and trying to be a good land steward, I decided to pluck it out. Afterwards, I looked like a porcupine. The seeds stuck to my hair, hands, shirt, pants, socks and shoes. After an hour of plucking seeds from myself, I had to throw out all my clothes.
The plant was 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, but devoid of foliage by the time it staged its attack on me. The stem looked square and thick. It branched out a good bit.
Bottom line—worst weed I have ever tackled!
A: Any ramble through overgrown fields in late fall is likely to end like yours. This is the time of year when plants show their creativity in scattering their seed. Some, like in your case, hitch a ride on any locomotive creature that passes.
Specifically, your weed seed is Bidens bipinnata also known as beggartick and Spanish needle. Each slender seed has two hooks at one end, which lead to the species name. “Bi” = “two” and “dens” = “teeth”.
The yellow flowers are somewhat attractive…but to avoid situations like this in the future, learn to identify them in late summer and pull up all that you see before they make seed.
I found excellent microscopic pictures of the four different Bidens species at Four Beggar-Ticks.
Beggartick seed contrast with Florida beggarweed, Desmodium tortuosum, aka Dixie ticktrefoil and Desmodium rotundifolium, prostrate ticktrefoil.
Again, any hunter or camper can remember scraping these triangular seed from their pants legs after a day outdoors.
Florida beggarweed (beggartick) – from www.forestryimages.org
Florida beggarweed – from www.forestryimages.org