Now that spring has arrived, gardeners all over Australia are getting out their spades and putting on their gloves to clear any weeds that have sprouted in their veggie patch during winter.
Yet a bigger problem lurks over the back fence. As with our gardens, our national parks can suffer from nasty weeds. And unfortunately, our socks could be helping to spread them.
Put simply, any plant can be a weed, depending on whether you like where it happens to be growing.
Our national parks serve to protect native plants and animals. Many introduced species create problems by competing with native plants for resources, poisoning wildlife or choking waterways.
Eradicating them is tough work, especially if their seeds are carried into new habitats.
Most bushwalkers are people who love nature, so it might come as a surprise to them that their walks could be helping to spread weeds.
Can seeds be carried on a person’s clothing?
A researcher has found that 40 per cent of seeds can be dispersed by clothing.
The thicker, fluffier hiking socks that keep our feet comfortable on long walks carried the most seeds. Surprisingly the researcher found, a quarter of the seeds that attached themselves stayed on board even after five kilometres of hiking.
So what can we do about it?
Wearing light trousers reduced the amount of seeds carried by 17 per cent, while thinner, cotton/nylon sports style socks also reduced the load. This means covering our socks with the right material could make all the difference.
Importantly, as tempting as it is to pick the burrs out of our clothes, it might be better to leave them in and clean them once we get home.
Just be careful about what you do with those seeds!