Monday, August 25, 2014

Teasel Topping Completed

The 2014 Teasel seed head collection filled six feed sacks.  I stomped the seed heads together with my boot as they were dumped into the sacks, so each sack is tightly packed.  This collection was made from an eight acre area of old crop fields that represents the extent of Teasel infestation at Blue Jay Barrens.  Time spent collecting was just over 16 hours spread over five days. 

This two acre field directly behind the house was part of the collection area.  Even though I know that Teasel still persists in the field, I’m not constantly reminded of the fact by the sight of Teasel seed heads standing tall above the other plants.  I learned long ago that work in areas that I see most often should be placed as top priority. 

I took a few minutes to walk around and enjoy the view of late summer fields without visible Teasel.

While dealing with this batch of Teasel at the base of an active ant mound, I found myself acting out the classic ants-in-pants comedy routine.  I must have been standing on one of their foraging trails, because it only took a few seconds for a dozen or more ants to crawl up inside my pants leg.  Allegheny Mound Ants have powerful jaws that can slice into the flesh, but it takes time for them to accomplish that feat.  To make their initial attack more effective, the ants curl their bodies and apply a bit of formic acid to the wound they are making.  The acid isn’t felt on bare skin, but causes a quick burn to even a minor cut.  I’m sure my little bout of stomping, scratching and pants slapping would have amused even the most somber audience.

It’s easy to locate the tall Teasel.  The trouble is finding short growing Teasel hidden by the taller vegetation.  I collected many seed heads from plants that were not much taller than 12 inches.  I’m sure many of these short plants were missed and their seeds will likely reach maturity.  While working, I had visions of a future where my fields were infested with dwarf Teasel, descendents of the short Teasel that avoided my annual collection.

My efforts yielded a total of 97.5 pounds of seed heads.  After weighing a random sample, I estimated there to be 108 seed heads per pound.  That means a total collection of 10,530 seed heads.  At an average 3.5 seed heads per plant, the total Teasel population was just over 3,000 plants.

Examination of several seed heads provided me with an estimated 725 seeds being produced per seed head.  My seed head collection efforts resulted in more than 7.6 million seeds that have been denied the opportunity to produce new plants at Blue Jay Barrens.

On my last day of collection, a thick fog persisted into late morning.  Many flying insects were grounded as they awaited their wings and bodies to dry enough for flight.  This makes it easy for a photographer to approach these normally wary creatures.

This Peck’s Skipper has its wings spread and is waiting for the sun to penetrate the haze and dry things off. 

Skippers have a neat little hooked tip at the end of the antenna club that sets them apart from butterflies.  The dew has this little fellow looking a bit ragged.  I must admit that I looked in much worse shape than the skipper.  The temperature was near 90 degrees, the air was perfectly still and the humidity level had to be over 80 percent.  The combination of dew and sweat had managed to get me completely soaked and I had Indian Grass anthers stuck all over my face and arms.  Fortunately, I always keep the camera pointed away from myself.

I discovered many Monarch caterpillars as I traveled the fields searching for Teasel.  Most were on Butterfly Weed where they concentrated on devouring the flowers.

Teasel seed left on the ground can remain viable for as long as five years.  I’m sure I’ll see a reduction in the number of Teasel plants before that time, but I’ll have to be vigilant in my seed head removal efforts for several more years before I can feel confident that any sections of the field have been rendered teasel free.


  1. Thanks, Furry Gnome. Most people around here just call it Crazy.