Salsola tragus, Prickly Russian Thistle
Scientific Name: Salsola tragus
Common Name: Prickly Russian Thistle
Also Called: Common Saltwort, Common Russian Thistle, Leap The Field, Russian Thistle, Tumbleweed, Tumbling Thistle, Wind Witch, Windwitch (Spanish: Chamizo Volador, Maromero; French: Soude Roulante)
Family: Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family. (Salsola tragus is now included as a sub-family (Salsoloideae) in the Amaranthaceae by some botanists.
Synonyms: (Kali tragus, Salsola australis, Salsola iberica, Salsola kali subsp. ruthenica, Salsola kali subsp. tenuifolia, Salsola kali subsp. tragus, Salsola pestifer, Salsola ruthenica)
Size: Up to 3 feet, usually smaller.
Growth Form: Forb/herb; stems erect, hispid or glabrous; plants rounded, multiple branches become hard and prickly when dried; stems often red-striped.
Leaves: Green; cauline leaves mostly alternate; leaves filiform or narrowly-linear, leaf tips sharp or spiny.
Flower Color: Inconspicuous, greenish to cream; flowering stalk (inflorescence) spiny; fruiting perianth glabrous.
Flowering Season: July to October.
Elevation: Under 8,000 feet.
Habitat Preferences: Often in dry areas, disturbed areas and cultivated fields.
Recorded Range: Prickly Russian Thistle is widespread throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.
North America & US County Distribution Map for Salsola tragus.
U.S. Weed Information: The following species of Salsola are listed by 46 state agriculture or natural resource departments; S. tragus, S. iberica and S. kali ssp. tenuifolia: Weeds of Nebraska and the Great Plains, Weeds of the United States and Canada, and Weeds of the West. Plants included here may become weedy or invasive.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: The genus Salsola is listed as a Noxious Weed by the state of Arkansas and California and Salsola kali ssp. tenuifolia is listed by the state of Ohio as a "Prohibited noxious weed". Plants included here are invasive or noxious.
Wetland Indicator: In North America Salsola tragus has the following wetland designations: Arid West, FACU; Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain, FACU; Eastern Mountains and Piedmont, FACU; Great Plains, FACU; Midwest, FACU; Northcentral & Northeast FACU; Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast FACU.
FACU = Facultative Upland, usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands
Threatened/Endangered Information: No data available.
Genus Information: In North America there are 7 species and 7 accepted taxa overall for Salsola. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 174 accepted species names with 78 infraspecific rank for the genus.
In the Southwestern United States, Arizona there are 3 species of Salsola, in California there are 5 species, Nevada has 2 species, New Mexico has 3 species, Texas has 4 species, Utah has 3 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.
Comments: Russian Thistle or Tumbleweed is a typical tumbleweed and the plant breaks free from its base and blows freely in the wind as a "tumbleweed" thus dispersing its seeds. You will often see this weed blowing across roadways or open places and often piling up along fences or other obstacles.Salsola tragus has been used for a variety of purposes by Western American indigenous peoples.
See a complete listing of ethno-botanical uses identified at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.