I’ve heard that tumbleweeds are not native to this country. Is that correct?

Richard Rodriguez

Granton, Wisconsin

You’re right on target. The Russians accidentally brought it along with them in the 1870s. Seeds of salsola kali, or Russian thistle, got mixed up in the sacks of flax seed the immigrants brought with them to the Northern Plains.

After its introduction in South Dakota, the tumbleweed quickly spread across the arid Western territories and states. Other species of tumbleweeds exist, but the most troublesome is the Russian thistle.

The tumbleweed plant breaks loose from its roots and goes wandering around the prairies, pushed by the winds. It has come to symbolize a footloose cowboy-type. One cowhand claimed the Lord put tumbleweeds here to show which way the wind was blowing.

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