Free-loaders! all over my arms, socks, velcro. My first thought is to get them off, so I sit down and start to rip them off me and toss them aside. Suddenly I realise I have just been manipulated by a plant. Those amazingly clever plants have worked out how to get a free ride to a new place for their seeds and I was helping them to spread. Carefully removing the seeds from myself and my clothing, I am spreading their seeds. It’s not new, it’s completely natural only one thing has really changed- our mobility. Back in the day an animal might spread seeds a few kilometers. These days it could travel nationally or even globally in a day or two.
OK, so it is a native plant- hook grass. But recent research shows that plants have local adaptions to local areas. Spreading seeds far away can ‘contaminate’ the gene pool of locally adapted populations. Worse still is the spread of invasive species. These are the easiest to spread – that is why they are a problem.
Taking a few minutes in a good place to remove free-loaders from gear, boot soles and clothing can help keep take care of these precious places that we love. What to do with the seeds?
I have a fire and so I put them in there. The worst thing to do is to toss them aside like I used to do on the trails. There we are playing into the hands (or perhaps leaves?) of these sneaky free-loaders.
Blog contributor: Chris North