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The tumbleweed, an icon of the American West, actually comes from?



  Tumbleweeds trapped in a fence in the American West.
Amit Patel / Flickr

Answer: Russia

Although there are some symbols reminiscent of the border history of the American West ̵

1; ten – gallon hats, spurs and six cannons to name a few – nothing says so much over a dusty old cowboy town like a tumbleweed.

While the tumbleweed may be synonymous with the wild west, you may be surprised to find out that it is not a border dweller. In fact, it is not native to the region or anywhere in the entire North, Central, or South American land mass. The invasive weed led to a journey with Russian immigrants in the late 19th century. The immigrants brought linseed from their home country and these seeds happened to be contaminated with the seeds of the Russian weed thistle ( Salsola tragus ).

When anyone even noticed that the weeds were spreading, it was essentially impossible to control. An adult thistle contains approximately 250,000 seeds. When the plant is fully mature, it dries out, tears off its stem and falls away in the wind. Due to the tumbling movement, the hardy and numerous seeds are quickly distributed over a large area. In addition, the plant requires very little rainfall and grows happily under adverse conditions.

Modern cattle breeders find the weeds rather annoying, since the weeds displace grazing grass and the dried tumbleweeds accumulate along fences and buildings, causing quite a fire. But we owe a little recognition to the strong weeds. During the terrible drought of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s that decimated farmland in the region, the Russian thistle saved the beef industry. If nothing else grew and there was no regular feed, the hardy thistle quickly populated the pastures and entire herds of cattle only survived on thistle.


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