Beggar's Lice - Nature's Velcro?
Beggar’s Lice, Tick Trefoil and Desmodium. One plant, which answers to many names. If you are a quail or other seed-eating bird you relish the seeds of this member of the bean family of plants.
However, if you are my German wirehair pointer, Heidi, it has mixed blessings! On one hand chances of finding quail in a large patch of beggar’s lice are pretty good when the surrounding habitat supports quail. On the other hand Heidi can attest to the fact that beggar’s lice stick to everything including her.
Beggar’s lice produces bean-like pods and I swear they are covered in Velcro! Those pods typically break up into segments which stick to clothing and hair – a free ride for the seed any time that Heidi and I find a patch of it. Depending on the species the blooms range in color from lavender to yellow and occur in late summer up until first frost. Their growth form ranges from shrub-like to single upright spikes.
I can understand why birds like the seed; it has a nutty flavor, which to me is very similar to soy nuts. Several years ago, I planted a food plot of beggar’s lice. I like it because it does not have to be planted annually and I can burn through it, renewing the vigor of the stand. I could typically find birds nearby anytime of the year. It is great brood-rearing cover because like many legumes it is attractive to insects. It makes great cover as several species look like small bushes during the growing season. In addition, it provides outstanding feed until early winter when the seeds falls off and can be covered up by snow.
I have had several quail hunting spots over the years filled with beggar’s lice. The quail were there and on some days when we couldn’t find the birds we would head for the patches of beggar’s lice and there they were.
Next time you are out in the field and get beggar’s lice on your jeans, rest assured that it is useful to a number of seed-eating birds. I know Heidi does not like them, but after the hunt she thoroughly enjoys the attention she gets when I comb the sticky seeds from her coat. By the way, DO NOT throw the beggar’s lice seed you collect from grooming your dog or clothes into the flowerbed.