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   Linnaeus named the Salsola genus in 1756. "Salsola" is the Latin diminutive for "salty", referring to a common habitat for this plant, salty soils.

   Photographs on this page show two of the invasive Tumbleweeds that we see blowing across roads and piling up against fences in the West.  Stems are stout and when the plant dries and tears off at the base of its central stem, the side stems support the plant as it tumbles along spreading its seeds.

   Determining the exact species of Salsola can be a prickly task.

   S. collina has appressed, imbricate bracts; a narrow, dense, uninterrupted spike; and perianth segments wingless or the wing narrow and erose (irregularly toothed, gnawed appearing).

   S. tragus has reflexed, not imbricate bracts; an interrupted spike; and perianth segments winged. 

   Tumbleweed was, according to A Utah Flora, introduced to South Dakota in 1873 from Russia in a load of Flax seed.  The mature plants tumbled quickly through the West invading millions of acres.  Tumbleweed makes for many ecological problems, but does provide decent winter food for cattle and it makes a darn good song.  Click to hear some of the song.

Salsola collina

Salsola collina (Tumbleweed, Pallas' Tumbleweed)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
formerly Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands. Summer, fall.
Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, New Mexico, October 9, 2007.

Peter Pallas named this species in 1803 from specimens collected in Siberia between the Ural and Samara Rivers. "Collina" is Latin for "hill".

 

Salsola tragus
Salsola tragus   (Tumbleweed, Russian Thistle)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
formerly Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands. Summer, fall.
Hunter Canyon, Utah, September 26, 2005.

Salsola tragus was named by Linnaeus in 1756 from specimens collected in "Habitat in Europa australi. Sauvages." (from habitat in wild areas of southern Europe). "Tragus" is Greek for "Goat"; the word was used by Dioscorides for this plant because Goats favor it.

Salsola paulsenii
Salsola tragus   (Tumbleweed, Russian Thistle)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
formerly Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert. Shrublands. Summer, fall.
Hunter Canyon, Utah, September 26, 2005.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Salsola collina

Range map for Salsola collina

Salsola tragus

Range map for Salsola tragus