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Ohio State University Extension


Russian thistle (Salsola Kali var. tenuifolia)

Russian thistle (Salsola Kali var. tenuifolia)

Description: A forb in the goosefoot family that grows 1'-3' in height, commonly known as tumbleweed. The rigid, erect plant is spiny and profusely branched. One plant can produce up to one million seeds. Often used when rehabilitating disturbed sites, but seen as an unwanted weed in agricultural contexts.

Life Cycle: Annual forb

Habitat: Cultivated, fields, roadsides, railroad right-of ways, pastures, waste areas, irrigated areas, river bottoms, disturbed areas and forests edges.

Leaf: Leaves are green alternate, simple, sessile, and net-veined. 

Stem: Stems can be green to red and become woody with age.

Flower: Small greenish flowers are perfect, auxiliary or in a terminal spike, and lack petals.

Fruit: Utricle with one horizontal positioned seed.

Root: Taproot with extensive lateral roots.

The problem is….plants break off and disperse seed over long distances as they are carried along the ground in a tumbleweed-fashion by the wind. They are strongly competitive in semiarid areas and are heavily favored by disturbance.

The scientific name has been reclassified as Salsola kali tragus.

Russian thistle seedling, Phil Westra.

Russian thistle whole plant, Steve Dewey.

Russian thistle whole plant, Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte.

Russian thistle flower, Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,

Russian thistle seeds forming, USDA APHIS PPQ - Oxford, North Carolina.