Stick Tights in the Wild Flower Garden
Not sure your wild flower garden should have this pretty little flower, if you have children or pets that might get in amongst the wildflowers. The common names for the Showy Ticktrefoil are stick tights or beggars lice. This is due to the method the plant uses to spread its seed about. The small hooked hairs on the seeds help them attach to any passer-by. So, if you have children and pets that get into your wild flower garden and these wild flowers are allowed to go to seed, you will be busy picking stick tights from clothing and fur.
CANADIAN or SHOWY TICK-TREFOIL
(Meibomia Canadensis; Desmodium Canadense of Gray) Pea family
Flowers – Pinkish or bluish purple, butterfly-shaped, about 1/2 in. long, borne in dense, terminal, elongated racemes.
Stem; Erect, hairy, leafy, 2 to 8 ft. high.
Leaves: Compounded of 3 oblong leaflets, the central one largest; upper leaves nearly seated on stem; bracts, conspicuous before flowering, early falling off.
Fruit: A flat pod, about 1 in. long, jointed, and covered with minute hooked bristles, the lower edge of pod scalloped; almost seated in calyx.
Preferred Habitat – Thickets, woods, riverbanks, bogs.
Flowering Season – July-September.
Distribution – New Brunswick to Northwest Territory, south to North Carolina, westward to Indian Territory and Dakota.
As one travels hundreds or even thousands of miles in a comfortable railway carriage and sees the same flowers growing throughout the length and breadth of the area, one cannot but wonder however the plants manage to make the journey. We know some creep along the ground, or under it, a tortoise pace, but a winning one; that some send their offspring flying away from home, like dandelions and thistles; and many others with wings and darts are blown by the wind. Berries have their seeds dropped afar by birds. Aquatic plants and those that grow beside running water travel by river and flood. European species reach our shores among the ballast. Darwin raised over sixty wild plants from seed carried in a pellet of mud taken from the leg of a partridge. So on and so on. The imagination delights to picture these floral vagabonds, each with its own clever method of getting a fresh start in the world. But by none of these methods just mentioned do the tick-trefoils spread abroad. Theirs is indeed a by hook or by crook system. The scalloped, jointed pod, where the seeds lie concealed, has minute crooked bristles, which catch in the clothing of man or beast, so that every herd of sheep, every dog, every man, woman, or child who passes through a patch of trefoils gives them a lift. After a walk through the woods and lanes of late summer and autumn, one’s clothes reveal scores of tramps that have stolen a ride in the hope of being picked off and dropped amid better conditions in which to rear a family.
Only the largest bees can easily “explode” the showy tick-trefoil. A bumblebee alights upon a flower, thrusts his head under the base of the standard petal, and forces apart the wing petals with his legs, in order to dislodge them from the standard. This motion causes the keel, also connected with the standard, to snap down violently, thus releasing the column within and sending upward an explosion of pollen on the under surface of the bee. Here we see the wing petals acting as triggers to discharge the flower. Depress them and up flies the fertilizing dust – once. The little gun will not “go off” twice. No nectar rewards the visitor, which usually is a pollen-collecting bee. The highly intelligent and important bumblebee has the advantage over his smaller kin in being able to discharge the pollen from both large and smaller flowers.
As a prairie and wet meadows wildflower, Showy Ticktrefoil provides food and cover for wildlife, mainly birds such as quail, pheasant and wild turkeys, and deer. You will find a small amount of its seed in most prairie reclamation mixes.
The Iroquois used a decoction of root of this wildflower as a treatment for biliousness. In other words, gastric distress.
These wild flowers start out a rose-purple that turn to a blue with age. From this you can see you would have some range of color from this pretty little flower in your wild flower garden.