Tumbleweed

From Academic Kids

Tumbleweed
Missing image
Salsola_tragus.jpg



Salsola tragus, habit
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Magnoliopsida
Order:Caryophyllales
Family:Amaranthaceae
Subfamily:Salsoloideae
Genus:Salsola
This article is about the plant. "Tumbleweed" was a hit for the cowboy singing group Sons of the Pioneers.

Tumbleweed is a name used for a number of species from the genus Salsola (Family Amaranthaceae). Tumbleweeds break away from their roots in the autumn, and are driven by the wind, as a light, rolling mass, over fields and prairies, scattering seed far and wide. Prairie tumbleweed produces its seeds in such profusion that the plant doesn't bother with protective coatings or food reserves for the coiled plant embryos.

Tumbleweed is also known as saltwort, though that name is also used for the unrelated genus Batis.

There are several species of Salsola that are referred to as tumbleweeds, they are also commonly called thistles:

  • Salsola collinina, commonly known as Russian thistle
  • Salsola kali, also called Russian thistle.
  • Salsola tragus, also known as prickly Russian thistle.

This salt-tolerant Siberian alien listed among "noxious weeds" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture was first reported in the United States around 1877 in Bon Homme County, South Dakota, apparently transported as a stowaway in flax seed imported by Ukrainian farmers. South Dakota proved too harsh and dry for growing flax, but by 1900, Salsola had tumbled to the Pacific Coast. It was also actively introduced by the U.S.D.A., under the impression that cattle might be induced to eat it in hard times during droughts. Palatability of the young shoots is considered to be fair. Cattle, sheep, and horses will eat it, if nothing better is available. Small rodents and Pronghorn also graze on the young shoots.

Missing image
Salsola_tragus_tumbleweed.jpg
Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed thrives wherever land use has disturbed the soil. It can be seen in Death Valley, California and in Colorado at elevations of 8500 feet.

Tumbleweed has naturalized to the point where it is regarded by many as native, changing the North American Great Plains plant community forever. It is controlled with mass applications of herbicides. Amusingly, tumbleweed is such a common device in Westerns, where it's used to indicate an abandoned area, that it is generally associated with the American Old West, despite its Russian origin.

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