Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

August 29, 2010

Agrimonious Assault

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 12:50 pm

Yes, it’s yet another picture of a fawn. This time the season is advanced and the little one is not quite as cute as it once was. The spots are rubbing off and it’s getting a bit angular in the face. Here we have a teenaged white-tail dorking about in the underbrush. If he had a voice it would be cracking with indignation: “Hey, what you looking at old timer? Get lost!” The last time I published a fawn picture (in early June, I believe) it was of a pair of giddy young’ns prancing about like puppies. Not long after I shot that video a coyote downed one of those fawns and crunched upon its tiny bones. He chose the original video location to make his kill as if to make a point. The other fawn survived. There is a distinct possibility that this gawky deerlet was that very survivor fearful of my taking another image – deer end up dying when I “shoot” them!

Now, I have no intention of publishing another deer picture just to talk about deer. I have much better things to do with this one. Upon close examination of the shot I later realized that this fawn had also been the victim of an assault. Look closely at the animal’s side and tail (see detail of de-side and de-tail below) and you can see that it is covered with Agrimony seeds. This critter was the victim of an Agrimoniuos assault! The result, however, was of a far different nature from a coyote assault.

Agrimony is one of those plants which bear hitch-hiker seeds. They depend upon passing animals – usually mammals – to distribute their seed capsules. In the form of this fawn, we are seeing this tactic played out as it was originally intended. The seeds will eventually get rubbed or picked off and drop onto the ground in a place far from the mother plant.

The plant is not terribly noticeable, being only 1 -3 feet high and rather gangly. The leaves are compound with deeply toothed leaflets (see above). One distinctive feature of Agrimony leaves is that they have little leaflets interspersed with the larger leaflets along the petiole.  Long slender flowering stalks extend up to deer belly height and bear a line of multiple tiny yellow flowers during the summer. These flowers mature into cone-shaped seed capsules at summer’s end which are equipped with a ring of crochet hooks at the wide end (see below). These hooks, identical upon close inspection to those on the hook side of a velcro strip, latch onto passersby like a mail bag onto a rumbling train – it only takes a slight brushing to dislodge them. Often, as was the case with this fawn, the whole seed-bearing frond goes for the ride. Yippee!

Specifically, the species in this discussion are called Small-flowered or Swamp Agrimony. These plants hang about in wetland or lowland situations and basically wait around for visitors. There are many species and Agrimonies are found throughout the world.  So, as you can imagine, they are known by many names by many people. I’m sure European deer have names for them too (stickbutt, comes to mind) but because people do the naming on this planet we need to stay with what we know. Because of their fondness for grabbing onto folks as if desiring their company, they were once dubbed Philanthrops (like philanthropists or lovers of mankind). In England they are known as Stickleworts or Harvest Lice. The English names certainly have a nice Dicksonian ring to them. In fact, Agrimony itself is a Dickens type name because it has a negative sound that fits right into the Scrooge and Marley mode.

You needn’t worry about looking for Agrimony, Sticklewort, or whatever you wish to call it, for it will find you. It has no preference as to nationality or even species!

1 Comment

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    Comment by Candie Pocchia — May 30, 2011 @ 6:16 am

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