Sticky Seeds From Weeds


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You will be surprised to know that there are many hitchhiking weeds that stick to your clothes. Here is a comprehensive list of them. There?s a hitchhiker lurking in your car right now and you don?t even know it. Fortunately, it?s not the kind that might end up on the nightly news, but it?s almost as bad where the ecosystem is concerned. Learn more about hitchhiking weeds in this article. Sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It's an annual and easy removed.

9 Weeds That Stick To Your Clothes

Weeds are unwanted plants that are usually non-native. They spread across pretty quickly, often denying water and nutrient resources to the native plants.

Typically, there are multiple ways by which weeds spread— wind, water, and animals. They usually do so via seeds and spores.

If that was not enough, there are weeds that humans are guilty of spreading. These weeds stick or hook to our clothing, dirty tools, machinery, or pet animals, spreading far and wide.

The funny part is that we often aren’t aware of carrying them around. The weed seeds that stick to your clothes are commonly referred to as hitchhikers.

The other fun part is that they know how to hold good on our clothing, making them travel wide. Here is a list of the weed hitchhikers.

Table of Contents

Sticky Weeds That Love Hitchhiking

Weeds spread by people are not only challenging to contain but costly.

They fall into various categories ranging from herbaceous to woody plants. Let’s take a look at some of them

1. Palmer’s Grappling Hook (Harpagonella Palmeri)

Palmer’s grappling hook is a wild native plant found on sand slopes, especially in the desert regions of California, Arizona, and Baja -Mexico.

You will find it hard to notice because of its tiny nature. The weed has haired pods that stubbornly cling to your socks.

The plant grows 30cm tall. Its stems and leaves are herbaceous and erect but sometimes spreading. You will also notice hooked white hair covering the leaves and stems.

The leaves are generally lance-shaped with rolling edges. Palmer bears hairy green fruit from tiny white flowers that emerge from the leaf axils.

Your socks play a significant role in distributing the seeds of Palmer’s grappling hook to other places for future germination.

2. Hedge Parsley (Torilis arvensis)

Hedge Parsley is highly invasive and can survive in a range of growing conditions. It grows aggressively, producing bur-like seeds that stick to clothing.

The weed is a native to Southern Europe and has found a home in several parts of the US. Familiar places you will find the weed growing are the edges of forests, roadsides, and gardens.

The plant grows to a height of 61cm. Its flowers are small, white, and clustered with fern-like leaves, with narrow, rounded stems.

Hedge Parsley leaves and stems are also covered with tiny white hairs. Get rid of the weed by pulling it from your garden, or use a commercial herbicide.

You can also mow the weeds early before the seeds develop to suppress them. If you have livestock, allow the animals to graze them before flowering.

3. Common Burdock (Arctium minus)

Common burdock is the other weed that likes to catch a ride on people’s clothing spreading long distances. It’s a nuisance plant growing in pastures and degraded places in many parts of the US.

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You should find it easy to identify because of its large dark green leaves that appear oval to triangular. The upper leaf surface is hairy, while the lower surface is pale green and wooly.

Common burdock flowers are small and countless, coming in various colors, including purple, lavender, white, and pink.

The weeds are not only difficult to eradicate but also toxic. Some people experience allergic reactions when they come into contact with their skin.

Common Burdock can cause eye infections and skin problems in livestock. To prevent it from spreading, hand pull or dig it out of the soil.

You want to do mowing before bloom time to avoid spreading the seeds. Some herbicides recommended for control are glyphosate, 2,4-D, and picloram.

4. Beggarticks (Bidens pilosa)

Beggarticks in the aster family are annoying weeds that will wreak havoc on your garden. They are found across the entire United States particularly around disturbed places.

The plants snowball, crowding out native plants. It has dull green leaves that have sharp teeth at the edges. Their flowers are bright yellow and resemble daisies.

The stems are slender and leafy, growing up to 5 feet. Beggarticks have sticky fish-like seeds that will attach to anything, including your socks or your pets’ fur.

This is one of its adaptation methods to ensure it spreads far and wide— hooking itself on the host who carries it along with them.

Get rid of beggarticks from your garden through frequent mowing. You could also uproot them from moist soil. If they prove to be stubborn, use a herbicide to eradicate them.

5. Krameria (Krameria grayi)

The other hitchhiker you want to know about is the Krameria. It’s a purple-flowered shrub growing in the Colorado desert, Southeastern California.

The plant is drought resistant and low-growing, reaching a 0.6 -0.9m. The leaves are ovate and gray, blending in with the stems.

Krameria fruits resemble the miniature version of the legendary Uncarina of Madagascar. The fruits have radiating spines containing several barbs which appear like a tiny harpoon.

These barbs are spread across the upper part of each spine. The barbs or spines easily stick to unsuspecting hosts such as humans wearing loose apparel, moving along with them.

6. Beggar’s lice (Tick Trefoils), Desmodium

Beggar’s lice are next up on the list. The plant has several other names such as tick clover and the hitchhiker. It’s a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae.

It has several other species that gardeners and botanists find challenging to identify. Identification is based on a close analysis of their seed pods— some species are considered weeds.

The leaves are arranged in leaflets of three, giving it the name trefoils. Beggar’s lice grow to a height of more than 3 feet tall.

Their hairy seed pods stick to clothing and fur, giving it the name beggar’s lice.

Some of the plant species are used in agriculture to create livestock fodder, in Chinese Medicines, and to repel insects.

7. Enchanter’s-nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)

Enchanter’s nightshade belongs to the willowherb family. Apart from gardens, other places you are likely to find the plant are at the base of old walls, woodlands, and hedgerows.

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Its leaves grow opposite each other, and are oval and rounded at the base. Their pink-white flowers are arranged in loose clusters and mostly appear between June and August.

Enchanter’s nightshade is problematic due to its persistent climbing habit. Most yard owners consider it a weed.

The surface of their fruits is covered in bristles that contain hooks. This makes them attach to clothing and animals for dispersal.

8. Houndstongue Weed (Cynoglossum officinale)

Houndstongue weed does not only stick to your clothes, but is poisonous to your livestock as well. You don’t want to keep it around your garden for safety reasons.

Seeds That Stick To Clothing: Different Types Of Hitchhiker Plants

Even now, they’re lingering along the roadside waiting for you to pick them up and take them wherever you’re going. Some will ride inside your car, others on the chassis, and a few lucky ones will find their way into your clothing. Yes, weeds that spread by people, or hitchhiking, have certainly taken advantage of you this year. In fact, the average car carries two to four seeds for hitchhiker plants at any given time!

What are Hitchhiker Weeds?

Weed seeds spread in a variety of ways, whether traveling by water, air, or on animals. The group of weeds nicknamed the “hitchhikers” are seeds that stick to clothing and fur, making it difficult to dislodge them immediately. Their variously barbed adaptations ensure that the seeds will travel far and wide via animal locomotion, and most can be eventually shaken off down the road somewhere.

Although it might sound like all fun and games, the weeds spread by people are not only difficult to contain, but they’re also costly for everyone. Farmers lose an estimated $7.4 billion each year in productivity to eradicate these pest plants. Humans are spreading these seeds at a rate of 500 million to one billion seeds a year in cars alone!

Although the weeds within crop stands are annoying, those that appear in fields can be downright dangerous for grazing animals like horses and cattle.

Types of Hitchhiker Plants

There are at least 600 weed species that travel by hitchhiking with humans or on machines, 248 of which are considered noxious or invasive plants in North America. They come from every kind of plant, from herbaceous annuals to woody shrubs, and occupy every corner of the world. A few plants you might be familiar with include the following:

  • “Stick-tight” Harpagonella (Harpagonella palmeri)
  • “Beggerticks” (Bidens) (Krameria grayi) (Tribulus terrestris) (Opuntia bigelovii) (Torilis arvensis) (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) (Arctium minus) (Cynoglossum officinale) (Cenchrus)

You can help slow the spread of these hitchhikers by carefully inspecting your clothing and pets before emerging from a wild area full of seeding plants, making sure to leave those unwanted weeds behind. Also, reseeding disturbed areas like your garden plot with a cover crop can ensure that there’s too much competition for hitchhikers to thrive.

Once those weeds emerge, digging them out is the only cure. Make sure to get 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm.) of root when the plant is young, or else it’ll grow back from root fragments. If your problem plant is already flowering or going to seed, you can clip it at the ground and carefully bag it for disposal – composting will not destroy many of these types of weeds.

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Last, but not least, check your car any time you’ve been driving on unpaved roads or through muddy areas. Even if you don’t see any weed seeds, it wouldn’t hurt to clean your wheel wells, undercarriage, and any other location where seeds might be hitching a ride.

Goose Grass, Sticky Willy

Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It’s an annual and easy removed but also easily spreads with its self sown seedlings. Can grow up to 4ft high. Sticky Willy can grow rapidly during warm weather. The sticky stems are able to scramble around the garden, smothering small, cultivated plants and setting masses of seed. It’s usually introduced on the coats of animals, birds’ feathers or human clothing. Its lifecycle is approximately eight weeks from germination to setting seed.


The leaves and stem are covered with hooked hairs that latch onto anything that brushes against them.


2 to 5 stalked flowers appear at the end of a stem. Individual flowers have 4 pointed white petals with a greenish center, and are about 1/16 inch across.

Preferred Habitat

Sticky Willy is a common garden weed and likes shade. Keep a close eye out for it as it will creep around your plants, spreading as it goes.

Weed Control

Remove Sticky Willy regularly by hand, or hoe off young seedlings before they set seed. Avoid getting seeds on clothing, as this can inadvertently spread it around the garden. Mulch borders with a 5cm layer of garden compost or composted bark to suppress seedlings.

Not Just a Weed

The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear.

Sticky Willy is a reliable herb and is used to clean urinary stones and to treat urinary infections.


Search Weedipedia

Welcome to Weedipedia.

At Vialii, we are strong proponents of organic gardening and try to avoid weedkiller if we can. To many people, weeds are wonderful things, whether they are grown as pretty wildflowers or for their health benefits. But we understand they can be frustrating in gardens so our Weedipedia pages detail our most common weeds, how to identify & get rid of them but also their benefits too. If you need help getting rid of your own weeds please get in touch.

Common Weeds

Goose Grass, Sticky Willy

Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick.

Horse or Mares Tail

One of the most dreaded of weeds, Mares Tail can spread like wildfire so if you see it, deal with.

Larger Bindweed, Hedge Bindweed

Bindweed is a notorious, perennial weed which no gardener wants to find in their garden as its so hard to.


Chickweed is one of the most common of weeds with the most delicate tiny white star-shaped flowers hence its Latin.

Creeping Buttercup

Creeping buttercup is a common perennial weed with low-lying foliage that forms mats. Its instantly recognisable glossy yellow flowers appear.

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