Hackelia virginiana (Virginia Stickseed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Beggar's-lice, Sticktight
Family:Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life cycle:annual, biennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; upland woods, thickets
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:2 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowres] The white to pale blue flowers are tiny, saucer-shaped to tubular, around 1/8 inch across with five round petals and a ring of arch-shaped appendages around the throat. Shorter, narrow, lance-like sepals, usually longer than the floral tube, alternate with the petals. The blossoms open progressively along slender, horizontal racemes at the tips of the branches; racemes elongate up to 6 inches as the plant matures. A larger leaf-like bract is set at the base of the raceme with subsequent bracts becoming smaller and alternating with the flowers until about the middle of the raceme; beyond the middle they become minute or missing.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, toothless and thin, with a soft texture from short hairs. Basal leaves are stalked, oblong to oval with a rounded tip, withering away before the plant starts to bloom. The stem leaves are broadly lance-elliptic, tapered sharply on both ends, up to 8 inches long and 1 to 4 inches wide, the lower leaves short stalked, upper leaves becoming progressively smaller and stalkless. Stems are stout and erect, typically single but much branched, with short soft hairs throughout both stems and leaves.

Fruit: Fruit type: barbed Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruits are round, wider than the flower but less than ¼ inch in diameter, divided into four nutlets with dense velcro-like prickles covering the outer surfaces.


It is doubtful anyone has taken many autumn walks in the woods without sooner or later ending up with a kazillion of these sticky seeds on their legs or socks as well as their pet's hair. H. virginiana has a very similar native look-a-like: H. deflexa (Nodding Stickseed) that differs only in having more slender and smaller leaves, roughly hairy rather than softly hairy, and the sticky prickles on the fruit are arranged only along the edges of each nutlet. An obsolete Latin name for Virginia Stickseed is Lappula virginiana.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: bruce - MINNETONKA MN
on: 2014-07-20 13:47:33

First experience was rescuing a baby robin from the burr mass. This plant is often gnarled looking from some fungus perhaps. Unattractive and a nuisance. I try to preserve most natives in my woods, but this one I dislike very much.

Posted by: Janice - Roseville
on: 2014-07-20 14:47:55

I discovered this plant several years ago, but did not know its name til this month (with help from the Ramsey Co. Master Gardeners). I have been trying to eradicate it in my woody yard and surrounding park land, but it seems to be increasing on a geometric scale. I have pulled about a thousand plants in this area of Roseville this spring and summer.I dislike this plant as much as Bruce. Don't know if it is possible to keep it in check: there are cats, dogs,deer, foxes and other wildlife roaming this area.

Posted by: Kristin - Elk River
on: 2014-08-15 08:02:24

This plant seems to have some sort of white fungus which causes the plant to wilt and turn dark brown.

Posted by: Melissa - New Brighton
on: 2014-09-06 22:41:21

We have these everywhere. I discovered that they have use! Hope this helps. Link included.

"Virginia stickseed inhabits moist deciduous forests, usually in areas of high-pH substrate. It was important in Cherokee herbal medicine. The crushed roots were mixed with bear oil and used to treat skin cancers, a tea of the plant was used to treat kidney conditions and improve memory, and the plant was used in love charms."
Cited from: https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/species/hackelia/virginiana/

Posted by: Rodney - Albert Lea
on: 2014-09-17 15:50:22

Had this start growing in a spirea and native seeded flower bed. Did not know what it was until found it today. The sticky seed part what made me think it was not something in the wildflower seed. Stuck to pants, shoes and socks and is hard to remove.

Posted by: Paul - Lake Elmo, Washington County
on: 2017-07-22 08:00:16

We have a lot in a bed of bee balm - very invasive and annoying!

Posted by: Naomi J - south Minneapolis
on: 2017-07-28 17:49:58

I have a plant that looks very much like Virginia stickseed but has opposite rather than alternating leaves. How can I find out what it is?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-28 21:04:22

Naomi, you can try using the advanced search page or post photos on our Facebook page.

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