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Russian Thistle

Scientific Name:

Kali tragus


Herbaceous Plant


Open areas


Native to the steppes of the Ural Mountains; widespread worldwide


No listed status

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Russian thistles are the most well-known species of tumbleweed. They vary in size with diameters anywhere from 6 inches to 18 feet. The stems, which have reddish strips, also vary in size between 8 and 36 inches in length. Russian thistle leaves are green and thin and their flowers are small and lack petals, making them difficult to spot.

Fast Facts:

  • Russian thistle is also commonly known as tumbleweed. At the end of its life cycle, it dries up and detaches itself from its root system. Ultimately, it tumbles away, dispersing its seeds as it rolls.

  • Russian immigrants brought the seeds of this plant with them in the 1800’s. The plant has spread rapidly and become an icon of the western United States. However, it is highly invasive in the United States and has invaded over 100 million acres.

  • These plants do especially well in soil which has been disturbed. Some examples of disturbed soil can be found in vacant lots or on the sides of roadways. They especially like alkaline soils and sandy soils. If soil is restored and natives are able to resurface, tumbleweed is often outcompeted.



Bridget Mulkerin (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

June 3, 2021 at 11:26:34 PM

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