Friday, June 22, 2012

Stickers and Dad

While out in the yard a week ago, I was horrified to find . . . stickers. 

I think these are field or coastal sandspurs
(Cenchrus spinifex). According to the Wildflower Center
website, these prefer sandy soils, which explains
why we don't normally see a lot of them.

We have lots of plants that stick to you around here. Most can be avoided. But these terrible things lurk on the ground, waiting to be driven into the soles of unsuspecting children’s feet. There they stick, as children cry “Don’t touch it, don’t touch it!” when their parents endeavor to remove the pernicious seed without impaling their fingers.

I remember when I was that child crying in pain. And of course, I’ve heard the cries when removing stickers from my own children’s bare feet.

When I saw the hated plants, I knew it was time to take action. After retrieving tools, I advanced on the enemy wearing gloves, carrying a big white bucket and brandishing my trowel. Begone, foul beasts!

I carefully dug up the offending plants, trying not to knock the stickers off before they made it into the bucket, and then picking stray stickers off my gloves. There were actually quite a few plants in three areas – how did they become so many?  Inattention, that’s how.

As I dug, my thoughts were not only about how this was a weed I did not want in my yard, but also about protecting my little daughter’s bare feet.

This reminded me of one of my earliest memories. My family – parents and three girls - lived out in West Texas when I was very young. We had a large backyard, infested with stickers. My dad spent many hours sitting on a stool in that backyard digging up sticker plants and discarding them into a bucket. I’m sure it was a hot, thankless job – west Texas in the summer can be hellish.

Why did he work so hard at this? All these years I’ve thought it was so he would have a pretty lawn. But now that I’m the parent carefully removing the sticker plants, I think there was another explanation.

My dad was doing one of those thousands of things fathers do to protect their children. He was digging stickers so his pretty little girls wouldn’t be hurt as they played barefoot in the backyard. Perhaps that’s why the memory stuck in my mind – it was a picture of my father as protector.

Thanks, Dad, for digging all those stickers, and for all the other things you did to take care of us.

Favorite spot in the garden:

White heliotrope (Heliotropium tenellum) is my favorite plant today. It’s not in one spot, but scattered about my property (this photo was taken beside the driveway) in inhospitable locations, looking lovely. I’m sure it’s grown here before, but I’ve only just identified it this year. It is hardy, prolific, cheerful – what more can you ask from a wildflower?


  1. Not just anyone could write such a lovely piece about sandspurs!

    When I moved to Texas from Florida, it took me awhile to realize that the stickers people were talking about were my old nemesis, the sandspur.
    A sticker by any other name will still feel as painful!

    1. Thanks, Lona! I never knew they were "sandspurs" until today. From my reading, it seems they are particularly bad in Florida.

  2. WOW i hate stickaburs (as i call them)! they just latch onto your feet, and be a bother!!!!!!

  3. Isn't it wonderful how our children teach us so much about our parents? Conquer those stickers.

    I've never heard of white heliotrope-- I hope it is scented like the purple one.

    1. Now I'll have to go see if they smell - I haven't noticed. And yes, you are right about children teaching us about our parents!