Monday, September 04, 2006

The hitchhikers

A walk in the woods or across a field at this time of year will often net you a collection of hitchhikers.

Plants like beggars lice, burdock, tick-trefoils, sticktights, and black-burs employ the by-hook-or-by-crook method of navigation. Their seedpods have evolved hooks that latch onto fur or clothing and hitch a ride to a new location, a place possibly suitable for sinking roots. The technique is so efficient that a major international corporation has made billions capturing it in plastic and calling it Velcro.

These plants’ interest in us turns the tables a tad. We humans have found countless uses for plants: as food, clothing, shelter, fuel, medicines, and decorations. How nice it is that at least a few plants have found a use for us.

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