Sunday, June 19, 2011


Sunday June 19 2011

Every spring, we seem to have some plant that runs so riotous as to become memorable.

One year it was the Indian paintbrush. Last year it was the globemallow wildflowers.

This year it's the cheat grass. Proliferating beyond all sensible proportions. Thick carpets of it, sometimes knee high. The horses like it when it's green; but as soon as it turns reddish brown, they aren't much interested in it.

Which is a shame, because that's when the seeds start sticking to everything. They get in your socks and shoes, and drive you mad with their irritating skin poking. I've heard rumors it can get in a dog's ear, pierce its eardrum and go all the way into the brain. I wouldn't doubt it because it's wicked stuff, able to work its way around to places unwelcome - I expect it has barbs that anchor it from going backwards.

It's an invasive species in many places - sometimes you'll see it called an "infestation". Rapid elongation of the root system and prolific seed production help it elbow out the native grasses. It can germinate in the spring or fall and is very adaptable to new environments.

It comes up earlier and uses up the water and nutrients needed by other perennial native grasses, and it has a short growth period and therefore is highly flammable earlier than native grasses. And it's so thick in this part of the country now - even more reason for me to be afraid of lightning.

And it gets into and sticks to your Easyboot Gloves like crazy. Judy had warned me of it. "I spent HOURS getting the seeds out of my boots yesterday!" Carol had put duct tape over the velcro straps of her horse's Gloves. I did the same, but the duct tape failed and slipped during our ride, making the velcro a super magnet for the seeds.

After some experimenting, where Steph found that taking a scissors blade and scraping it back and forth over the seeds is the best way to remove the worst of it, followed by tweezers for the individual near-impossible-to-get pieces, it still took me over an hour to clean the boots.

Judy suggested I try vet wrap around the velcro straps next time. Anybody else had this problem before?


  1. I call that stuff speargrass, it sure is nasty. Those are the boots I plan to buy for Gussie and Beamer. How long do they last? (Taking into consideration that you are an endurance rider!)

  2. I can relate to that, that stuff in combination with velcros really is nasty. In my experience, using a dog grooming brush (the type with several rows of little needles) seemed to work best..

  3. Merri ese es un problema del campo, tiene mala solución, hay que quitarlas una a una y siempre en el sentido de la espiga, es decir que tienes que empujarla para sacarla, no tirar de ella, ya que las espinillas van en sentido contrario.
    No se te ocurra meterte ninguna en la boca, ya que van hacia dentro de la garganta y son dificilisimas de sacar.
    En los perros en muy habitual que se les meta en las orejas, produciendoles grandes infecciones.
    En el Belcro de los protectores y en los guantes son un buen sitio para su recolección.
    La naturaleza es sabia y tiene sus metodos para hacer viajar a sus semillas.
    Saludos de Gabriel.

  4. I've never seen that stuff here in New Jersey. WE have some different kinds of burrs and little sticky things, but not in that quantity.

    I wonder if brown marmorated stink bugs would eat cheat grass? I'd be glad to send you some, but then I'd probably be arrested by the USDA or something for exporting invasive species to another state. *lol*

    Vet wrap might work, but can you get it to stay in place? Maybe if you prewrapped the boots wherever you could before you put them on, kind of like an easyboot glove glove??

  5. Ooh...looks like the stuff does grow in NJ. I'm not sure I've ever seen any, but I'm going to keep on the lookout. Apparently it can be very dangerous to hunting!

  6. Thanks for your comment! Iceland is the most beautiful place on Earth I think. Also, being a fine perveyor of horseflesh, I know you would just love the Icelandic Horses - they are amazing! Hoping you actually make it over there - it is an experience of a lifetime.

    PS: Hope you got the stickers out of your shoe :)

  7. Cheat grass doesn't stick to steel :-)

    (I'm so sick of the high failure rate of my plastic that we are going back to steel tomorrow. I'm trying to recall why I ever switched....)

    Mary K., aka: A Very Grumpy Rider

  8. I have personal experience with it boring into dogs' ears and horses' lips. Once they get a little ulcer in their lip or gum, the seeds will stick in there and work their way in deeper. The only solution is to take the horse off pasture and feed soft food until it heals. Oh, and use eyebrow tweezers to pull out all the little seedlets. Can you guess how much fun that was?!

    The vet had to do the dog's ear because they were embedded so deep. Not into the brain, but DEEP in the ear canal.

    As far as fabric, I have not found a seed-removal device more effective than the human hand (sadly).

    You could switch out the gloves and go to a style without fabric. I use steel anyway, but I bet anything without gaiter would solve your problem!

  9. A wire slicker brush works great on velcro to remove those nasty seed heads.

  10. hate those damn things!

  11. I have seen a lot of this grass too, and noticed this week that it had changed color. Thanks for the timely post and I hope to hear some tips!

  12. Cheat grass is right up there with goat heads (puncture vine) gnats, mosquitos and ticks in my book. The only things I really feel good about treating with chemicals.

  13. About the only tip I can come up with is just sit down with your favorite beverage, a freind who happens to be in the same situation, a pair of tweezers, and pick evil weed out.

  14. Rather have to dealw ith cheat grass than rattlesnakes!