Russian thistle is not a native of the West and importing fungus blights from its homeland can kill it-

While there are several plants called “tumbleweed,” the one most commonly called that is prickly Russian Thistle.  It has been around for almost 150 years and Hollywood probably convinced people it is an essential element of the “Old West.”

A couple of fungal blights from Asia Minor now show great promise in reducing its prevalance. Introduction of plant diseases, however, can be very dangerous and controversial. So far these look to be very host specific. I hope these work out if they are approved. To me the prickly tumbleweed of the West has no redeeming value.

High Noon for Tumbleweed? By Emiline Ostlind. WyoFile

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

12 Responses to A chance to finally get rid of tumbleweed?

  1. JimT says:

    Good news for me..I am deathly allergic to the Russian Thistle variety which is the most common as well as I understand it. I also am allergic to cow dander…LOL..go figure…

  2. Alan says:

    “…very dangerous…” indeed. We can only hope that this doesn’t turn into the story about, “I had some mice, so I got some cats. Then the cats took over and I got some dogs.” Etc.

  3. Salle says:

    I have some great pictures of the stuff that I took along the Green River last year. I had never seen it in bloom before, it’s actually unique and pretty. I would include a picture in my comment but I am not sure how to do that.

    • Nancy says:

      Can you copy and paste Salle? I’d be interested to see if its what I have growing here that was not around 3 years ago.

    • Nancy says:

      Maybe send it to Ralph and he could post it? Course I think Ralph is not in the house right now…..Haven’t seen him on the blog.

      The variety of tumbleweed I have here now is dark green in color, with stickers, low to the ground, and spreads out. Usually find it along the driveway, not out in a field. Dries up in the fall and blows around.

      • Salle says:

        I’ll try that.

      • Thanks. Salle! I have put it up in the body of that post. Nice photos! The once I put up I think was especially unique. It shows how sharp Russian thistle really is.

      • Nancy,

        I am around today. Terrible Memorial weekend weather!. It rained 14 hours in Pocatello without a stop. A little sun is coming out now, but it is only 40 degrees at our modest 4500 feet in SE Idaho.

        By the middle of next week I will probably be able to take off for some outdoor fun. The weather report finally appears to be optimistic.

      • Salle says:

        To add a little to the description, I would say that I saw a wide variety of sizes of this plant, from waist high to less than knee-high. The flowers’ colors ranged from deep red to white and everything in between, the leaves were always rather dark green. the photos were taken early in the morning as I had 720 miles yet to cover that day and this was just an overnight camping stop on a longer journey. This, in dried form, is what I normally call tumbleweed and that seems to be everywhere all year round.

  4. Nancy says:

    Thanks for posting the pic Ralph! Its been snowing and raining over this way all day and more of it on the agenda tomorrow.

    Salle – it kind of looks like the same plant but what I have here, spreads out at ground level, doesn’t have much of a root system and when it dries out, it curls up and blows around like tumbleweed.

    • Salle says:

      That’s pretty much what this stuff is/does. There was another pic showing more of the plant structure. It has long, or not so long branch-like stems that rise up from a central point near the ground; the whole thing resembles the outline of a sphere, so I can see where this would be the plant I suspected it to be. I’d be willing to bet that it is the same thing.

      We’ve had about a foot of snowfall w/ accumulation of about 6 inches each day, since last Thursday morning. It has snowed all day here – for the last three days and is still snowing but it, at about 6 inches, has begun to melt off. I heard on the news, last night, that we might get 1 – 2 feet by tomorrow. The doppler and satellite views don’t look too promising. By Wed., they claimed, it would all melt and bring even more flooding woes to the region. (I’m near Targhee Pass, the creeks have been running high for over a week.)


May 2011


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey