Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Beggar Lice

My life in appalachia beggar lice


1901 Lounsberry Southern Wild Flowers 527 Although they flare jaunty golden-heads, all the while they are preparing their flattened quadrangular or nearly terete seeds, with barbed and sharp-pointed awns. These, later, attach themselves to anything willing to carry them along and disperse them at a distance from the parent stem….It would seem quite impossible to avoid them. And then so in harmony with their purpose is the instinct of humanity, that few people would be seen returning home while covered with their pods, but sit down by the edge of the woods or swamps to pick off the seeds and scatter them-usually in receptive soil.


I was one of those members of humanity. I picked up my beggar lice on a hike in Graham County NC and brought them back with me to Brasstown.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    October 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    I often tell Piper that in the grand scheme of life, we are just Seed Dispersal Mechanisms.If I’m not combing them out of her coat, I am pulling them off my clothes!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 17, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Oh Yeah! Ken’s the winner. They are Spanish needles! That’s what we called them anyway. I forgot the name but they are still the same little demons.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 17, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    and Ken and Jim and Eve….We always called the thin needles that attach like Tipper’s picture “Spanish Needles”…there is a skinny one as well as the fatter one she has pictured.
    Jim we also called the one in Tippers picture Tick weed!
    Eve…we also have the little round “stick-em” in the Spring that also get in our cats fur. Drives him crazy if one gets under his neck..They are tiny and wad up quickly in the hair. He pulls at them with his teeth and shakes his head, til he gets it out. I usually have to get the ones under his chin! I don’t know the name for those but from now on will use what you named them.
    I only know one thing for sure, all can be hateful to get off!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Yeah we called them beggar lice where I came from, my husband calls them ” hitch hikers”! We also had cockle burrs that used to get embedded in the animals fur.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    The ones on your shirt, I always
    called ’em “Spanish Needles”. The little triangular ones are Beggar Lice and the round ones are ‘Cuckle Burrs.’ At least that’s what we have always called ’em. All three
    kinds are in my garden now, along
    with boocoos of Morning Glories.
    When I was growing up we went
    Posseum Hunting alot. There were
    persimmon trees at the upper end
    of our corn field and getting
    through it required dealing with
    all them Beggar Lice. We had 4
    Fiests tho, and they would pick
    every one off when we rested abit…Ken

  • Reply
    October 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Ours were flatish & round–didn’t have stickers but adhered like velcro. Never thought about scraping them off–that’s a good idea. At least ours weren’t sticky.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Good morning from the beautiful MS Gulf Coast. We are having a string of pretty days! We have little oval shape clinkers that are almost impossible to remove. We just call them stickers. They get on my cats hair and drive them crazy. I think they are mainly a problem in Spring. Great post!

  • Reply
    Velma Crowe
    October 17, 2014 at 10:44 am

    So who invented Velcro?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

    I bothered to look them up and it seems the “experts” are also mixed up about which are lice and which are ticks. I get them both. The little triangular shaped ones are not a big problem. You can pick a few off and start sticking them to themselves and use the accumulation to remove them all kinda like you use the back of a shipping label to pick off lint.
    Those you pictured are much more difficult to remove. You have to remove them one at a time lest you pick the cloth into which they have implanted themselves. You have to be careful not to break them off or the part that remains will continue to aggravate the p— out of you and you can’t never find it. I’ve been known to put a sock on and pull it off half a dozen times, each time turning it wrong side outerds looking for one of them little imps.
    Cuckle burrs are an aggravation too but can also be fun. You don’t have a sister do you? A sister with long hair?
    Cuckle burrs in the milkcow’s tail will give you a microdermabrasion and apply a naturopathic freckle treatment all in one swipe.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I mistakenly thought I was an observant and knowledgeable person until I started following Tipper’s blog. How many times in childhood, yes even adulthood, did I walk or run through a field gathering nature’s seedpods, briers, and such? Not once did I care or think about my role in nature’s scheme of things. Most of these are now plucked off before I enter the foyer, which may explain why I have to do so much weeding near that door. As a child my poor Mother probably spent hours pulling Beggar lice from my socks.
    My role in nature was not clear even as a child blowing dandelion pods in the wind to see how many children I would have. I feel I am at least partially responsible for the abundance of dandelions on everybody’s lawn.
    I learn so much from your blog and your posters. B Ruth will be pleased to know she is not the only one who has gone airborne on a hickory nut.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2014 at 9:22 am

    I never heard of tickweed : ) Jim’s right just a few counties over and words are used differently-fascinating!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    October 17, 2014 at 9:18 am

    This is not what I have always heard called Beggar lice. What I call Beggar lice if a little flat bur and the plant has a purple bloom. I always heard these called ” stick tights”

  • Reply
    Vernon Kimsey
    October 17, 2014 at 9:04 am

    I much prefer the beggar lice I encounter here to sand spurs I ran into during my time living in South Carolina. Sand spurs + bare little feet = a lot of pain…..

  • Reply
    Janice Stout
    October 17, 2014 at 8:50 am

    We have fought these forever on our clothes here in WV but I have never heard of them referred to as beggar lice. I always learn something here. 🙂

  • Reply
    October 17, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Yikes! I never knew what they were called. I don’t like it when they latch themselves to my clothing. I try to remove them just where they decided to hitch a ride. They are definitely not my favorites in the woods.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 17, 2014 at 8:44 am

    I always called the flat oval shaped ones beggar lice and the the ones in your photo stickers or hitch hikers.
    The flat ones come off pretty easy by scraping with your pocket knife.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 17, 2014 at 8:07 am

    Wow…Cotton bolls…who would ever have thunk to use those to remove “beggars lice”. I would wonder if one could carry with them and use drugstore cotton balls, However, the store-bought balls are a lot smaller and may in this day have polyester mixed in with them…maybe or not!
    Thanks Tipper and TMc thanks for the tip…

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    October 17, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Those are tickseeds on your shirt. Beggar lice are triangular. FWIW, both plants have pretty flowers. Anyone going out into fields or woods this time of year is very likely to come out with one or both (as well as maybe cockleburs) having hitched a ride.
    Re: b.Ruth’s hickory nuts – I reckon we’ll just have to start calling her Roller Babe Ruth. Speaking of Babe Ruth – many is the time that I’ve picked up a stick in the woods and whacked newly-fallen hickory nuts (tossing up and hitting like a baseball). When really green, the hulls will survive a good knock and go a long ways.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    October 17, 2014 at 7:41 am

    The ones we called “beggar lice” when I was a kid were different from these. Ours were little flat triangles that were attached to each other in rows of 5 or 6 and stuck to everything. They were not that hard to remove and didn’t have anything on them to actually stick a person. I don’t remember seeing the ones in the picture.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 17, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Tipper–Interesting how just a county or two can make a difference in names or descriptions. The photo you show is of what I’ve always known as tickweed, beggar’s ticks, or tagalongs.
    To me, beggar lice are oval in shape, come in strands of four or five and are borne by a plant which has small but attractive purple blooms. They cling thanks to a fuzzy surface rather than the “prongs” of beggar’s ticks.
    Add cockle burrs into the mix and you’ve got an unholy trio.
    You’ll have at least some readers who are old enough and who are (or were) hunters who will remember Duxbak brand clothing. It repelled all these devilish things in fine fashion.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 17, 2014 at 7:23 am

    Isn’t it amazing, even without consciousness, survival and propagation are build into these little plants!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 17, 2014 at 6:35 am

    I hate those retched things…To me they are the toughest to remove from socks, pants, etc. Plus those pointy little (attach-it-two’s) prongs sometimes stick the flesh as well.
    This brings back so many memories from my childhood and when walking thru the fields when my boys were young.
    More than one time, after learning and watching my Dad do this, have I removed the flat little triangle “stick-tights” or “beggars-ticks” from a pair of socks or pants.
    Take out the old Case pocket knife, or (hidden-recess switch blade, yes, I carry one in my purse) reach down and stretch out your sock or pant leg as tight as you can, lay the flat edge of the blade to the sock and scrape those little devils off! Careful not to cut a slit in your socks or pants…
    The “beggars-lice” you have pictured are not easy to remove by this method. One usually has to just reach and grasp the sticking out part and pull them off one or two at a time!
    Thanks Tipper, for the memory of “Beggars-lice”, “stick-tights” and “beggars-ticks”! Would it be Fall without them!
    PS…Ask your hiking buddies this thing I ponder! How do you walk under hickory trees, when there is such a large mast (nuts), without just stepping on one and then rolling along as if the ground has ball-bearings?
    Quite an experience if (like me) you happen to be pushing a roll-a-tor! Don’t show this to the slick Maple-leaf guy he would not let me live it down!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2014 at 5:56 am

    I use to work with some guys that would pull cotton this time of the year if we were near a field and keep it in the truck just to get the beggar lice off if we got a bunch on us, works good,, wipes off easy…

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