Monday, May 18, 2009

Another Dog Park (Plant) Pest

It has a lovely, dignified name—Queen Anne's Lace. It's also called Wild Carrot. But it is the source of an annoying little bur that experts call Beggars Lice. Each of the little white flowers will eventually turn into a hard, fuzzy, rice-shaped bur that will attach itself to you, your clothes, and your dog's fur and collar. The burs usually form in June. 

The plants shown above—notice how they cozy up to the poison ivy in the lower right-hand corner—are growing along the creek-side path, right under the Live Oak with the abandoned treehouse. In previous years, this plant grew everywhere in Dog Park. Matt (Jigs and Ollie) started a one-man eradication program; he literally pulled up by hand every plant that grew in the south field of the Park. The year before that, the state agency had stopped mowing the Dog Park fields, and the entire park was overgrown with Wild Carrot. That summer, I was taking care of a Chow Chow named Zedra while her owner was in the hospital. Zedra was an undisciplined and devious dog, even a little masochistic. She spent much of her time with Roma and me plotting Roma's overthrow as alpha dog in our household. (I did not think it was comical at the time, but looking back, I see that it was like Daffy Duck trying to unseat Bugs Bunny as the most beloved Warner Bros. cartoon character. "Duck season!" "Rabbit season!" "Rabbit season!" "Duck season!" Blam! When I returned from taking Zedra back to her owner, Roma turned her back to me. Her thought balloon read, "You need to think about what you have done!") Anyway, Zedra discovered that I would have to spend an inordinate amount of time with her if she hurled herself into the beggars lice at Dog Park. Her fine, silky Chow fur was a magnet for the burs. As a result, I would have to spend 45 minutes every evening picking them out—and it was no picnic for her because the burs snagged and caught the brushes and combs I used. Several times I had to take scissors and snip out chunks of bur-encrusted fur. She looked a little lopsided when I returned her to her owner a month later. 

The upside is that beggars lice, unlike spear grass or sand burs (I saw a plant with ripe, juicy ones the other day), do not maim or pierce the skin. They just suck. 


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