Russian Thistle, Tumble Weed, or Wind Witch


Latin Binomial: Salsola kali, S. pestifer, S. australis, S. iberica, and S. tragus


Description: skeleton of a shrub.  Small (6 inches) to large size (3 feet, although some have reported VW car sized ones). 


Habitat:  Wide ranging


Ecology Pyramid: Eaten by “mice, bighorn sheep and pronghorn” (Desert USA) and cattle


Social History: Considered invasive to monoculture crops, taking over fields, and breaking through firebreaks.  Introduced to USA about 1873 by Russian Jews or Ukrainian farmers in Scotland (Bonhomme County), South Dakota who imported impure flaxseed from Eastern Europe or southern Russia and has a similar reputation in the Russian wheat fields (Report of the Secretary of Agriculture, 1895; “The Russian Thistle,” 189[6]? or Desert USA).  Arrived in Antelope Valley, CA in 1895 and a year earlier in Ohio along a railroad track.




1)      “Tumble Weed, Russian Thistle” at  http://www.desertusa.com/mag01/may/papr/tweed.html (accessed 17 April 2008)

2)      “The Russian Thistle and Some Plants It is Mistaken For (April 1896?) at http://www.archive.org/stream/russianthistleso00clin/russianthistleso00clin_djvu.txt (accessed 17 April 2008).

3)      Lyster Hoxie Dewey, The Russian Thistle: Its History as a Weed in the United States, Farmers' Bulletin of the United States Department of Agriculture, no. 10. (Washington, DC: GPO, 1893 and 1894).