prickly Russian thistle
Scientific NameSalsola tragus
Other Common Names:
Synonyms (former Scientific Names):
Grows upright to 3' tall from a brittle taproot. Branches freely and often.
Fleshy, alternately arranged leaves are up to an inch long and get smaller up the stem. Leaves are narrow and sometimes have fine hairs.
This plant's dispersal mechanism is a fundamental characteristic. In the fall, the central stem can become quite woody and brittle near the base, making it break off easily in the wind. Because of its many branches, it can tumble around in the wind and become tangled up with other tumbleweeds, growing larger as it disperses itself across the landscape.
Flower Seed Head
Flowers typically develop in solitary, replacing leaves at the axils near the top of the plant and forming a small spike at the topmost bud. Flowers are small, flanked by a pair of spiny bracts and having a 5-parted calyx that develops wings. Flowers from June to the first frost.
Seeds are flat discs or cones. Quite small, seeds can number in the hundreds of thousands per plant.
Native to Eurasia, but now widespread in North America, especially in the Upper Midwest and West. Grows well in arid or salty areas, and is commonly found in fields and disturbed grasslands.
upright and nonwoody,
woody bush or tree
Thorns or Spines
Approximate Flower Diameter
Dominant Flower Color
Stem Cross Section
round or oval