Grass seeds cling to life – and clothes

#534 in a series of true experiences in real estate
June 2007, Hills Newspapers

I often go into my garden straight out of bed in the morning, before coffee or conversation. No thought, just sights, and an occasional pulling of weeds. I am almost always barefoot, and in the early cool of the day, I usually have on the same pale blue, button-up knit sweater. This sweater is ideal for the garden in that it has pockets for hankies, the sleeves can be turned up and will stay put, and it’s machine washable.

The other day as I walked through the garden noticing and noting beautiful new rose and dahlia blooms, irises wanting more water, mock orange branches all done flowering, I noticed a slew of seeds fallen on bare ground, unusual seeds I’d never seen before. There was a rather thick pile and I stopped to scrape up a handful. The seeds had fallen, I realized then, from a feathery grass I planted just this year. This sort of grass is all the rage now. I see them everywhere around town in strips next to sidewalks, in prairie-style plantings, in shopping mall parking lots.

I was interested to see the stalks growing up close, wanted to watch them sway in a breeze, and so when I found them for sale in a nursery, I bought two. One of the grasses I put in a pot on my patio, the other in the ground. The potted plant hasn’t grown much but the other grew up about 3 feet tall, the stems puffed up very fat and hairy, hair that looks as thought it’s been over-permed.

I like the look very much, it’s so soft and sway-y, and I mentioned this to a gardener friend. “Which grass is it?” she asked, then, without knowing which one exactly, she added, “I think it reseeds a lot.”

I hadn’t thought of that. She was right, too, because suddenly there were the seeds, a lot of them, already spreading about. There hadn’t been time for any to germinate yet, but oh dear, I could see how it would be. Baby grasses all over the place.

Still, the stalks are irresistible. I ruffled and stroked the hair briefly, then moved on and forgot all about it until the next morning when I got up, headed for the garden, and again put on my favorite sweater. Something inside the sweater was prickly and when I looked closely I could see tiny, pale yellow hairs sticking out from all over the sweater: inside, outside, in the pockets, in the sleeves.

I plucked one off, a curly thread, very fine, not even as large around as a slender sewing needle. On one end was a teensy, bulb-shaped seed. The entire apparatus was clearly designed to cling and hold and be carried to fertile ground.

For some time I sat in the morning sun pulling seed hairs out of my sweater, marveling at the number of them and at how fast they held on. I didn’t think they’d wash out in the wash. Probably I’d have to pull each individually.

That’s how it is with the seeds of forget-me-nots. I like the flowers but because I am acquainted with the stick-to-itiveness of the seeds, I try each year to pull all the plants before they reach the seed stage. They are like burrs. They jump onto my clothes and won’t let go. In the washing machine they shrivel and cling harder. I’ve thrown away socks hopelessly studded with forget-me-not seeds.

Another plant of which I am fond but do not want absolutely everywhere in the garden is money plant. The purple flowers in early spring are beautiful and if I leave the stalks alone, the seed pods look something like coins. These papery, translucent pockets hold black seeds. The paper part of the pods floats off later in the year and the seeds drop. Every one of them, I swear, sprouts. If I haven’t gotten to them by that time, the bare stalks are dry and bristly. They poke my arms, making me mad.

I’ve removed hundreds from the garden but still they come. I wonder if all of those millions of fluffy grass seeds will be carried, or float off, to far-flung lands? Or will most stay inside my fences? Will every single one sprout and grow?

The very thought gets me to thinking that I’d do well to scrape up as many of the hair-like, seed-attached threads, and dispose of them. While I work at it, I’d best wear clothes that are not as readily attachable-to-able as my old sweater.

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