You might not have ever given any thought to tumbleweeds. But this National Geographic feature about the invasive species, which originated in Russia, is worth a read.
According to the author, Sante Fe science writer George Johnson, tumbleweeds - a plant formally known russian thistle - has become a symbol of the vast western half of the United States. Yet while it’s often romanticized in cinema and photographs, the species has wreaked havoc for farmers or residents in states like South Dakota, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
"An invader from the Eurasian steppes east of the Ural Mountains, Russian thistle has shown an appalling ability to thrive in its adopted land. Every winter the plants die, and the stems become brittle, breaking with a gust of wind. Then they go rolling and rolling, merging into masses of ugly, brown thorn clouds that can bury a house or feed the fury of range fires. Good for almost nothing, the biggest plants—they get as large as Volkswagen bugs—can scatter as many as 250,000 seeds along a path extending for miles. The seeds then lie in wait, preparing for the next wave of the invasion."
Check out the feature. It’s a great read on one symbol of America that maybe we could have done without.
Photo above via National Geographic. Photo credit: Diane Cook and Len Jenshel.