Tumbleweeds invasive plant species in Oklahoma that is likely to stay


Tumblin’ tumbleweeds.

They’re a major facet of many an old-timey country song. You’d be forgiven if you jumped to the conclusion this western plant is a perfect icon of the American West.

It is not.

This plant has another name: Russian thistle. That belies the fact this plant is not native to central Oklahoma. In days of old, it grew exclusively on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean. It accidentally got introduced to our side of the world, and scientists have rued the days since. Tumbleweeds are a non-native, invasive species that has few redeeming qualities. Sure, there is the rare exception of the role that it plays as the rare inspiration for a mere handful of cowboy culture songs.

This tenacious plant has shouldered aside all attempts to eradicate it from its foster home. Scientists have had to resign themselves to the inescapable fact this unwanted interloper is here to stay.

The wheat fields and cattle-dotted grasslands west of the metropolitan area exhibit a profusion of these beyond-their-welcomed-stay houseguests. One can only hope some brilliant young soon-to-be scientist might come up with a beneficial use for this noxious weed. I am of the opinion young people hold out much hope for us by being our true salvation. I cannot help but believe the younger generation will take this bull by the horns and wrestle it into submission.

Stay tuned.

Neil Garrison was the longtime naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center. His email is atlatlgarrison@hotmail.com.



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