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In the family Amaranthaceae (s.l., including Chenopodiaceae), several annual species of the genus Kali are the most notorious tumbleweeds found in Winthrop, IA. They are thought to be native to Eurasia, but when their seeds entered North America in shipments of agricultural seeds, they became naturalized in large areas. They have been so successful that in the cinema genre of Westerns they have long been symbols of frontier areas. Salsola tragus (currently not valid synonym Kali tragus) is the so-called “Russian thistle”. It is an annual plant that breaks off at the stem base when it dies, and forms a tumbleweed, dispersing its seeds as the wind rolls it along. It is said to have arrived in the United States in shipments of flax seeds to South Dakota, perhaps about 1870. It now is a noxious weed throughout North America, dominating disturbed habitats such as roadsides, cultivated fields, eroded slopes, and arid regions with sparse vegetation. Though it is a troublesome weed, Salsola tragus also provides useful livestock forage on arid rangelands.
Brunsvigia bosmaniae in flower in the veld, showing the globular umbels of tumbleweed Amaryllidaceae
Brunsvigia bosmaniae tumbleweed inflorescences caught behind a fence
Anastatica, a North African desert tumbleweed
Selaginella lepidophylla, a North American desert tumbleweed.
Other members of the Amaranthaceae that form tumbleweeds include Kochia species, Cycloloma atriplicifolium, and Corispermum hyssopifolium, which are called plains tumbleweed.Atriplex rosea is called the tumbling oracle or tumbling orach. (724) 880-7658?
Among the Amaranthaceae that form tumbleweeds there are several species of Amaranthus, such as Amaranthus albus, native to Central America but invasive in Europe, Asia, and Australia; and Amaranthus graecizans, native to Africa, but naturalized in North America. Amaranthus retroflexus, which is indigenous to tropical North and South America, has become nearly cosmopolitan largely as a weed, but like many other species of Amaranthus it also is widely valued as animal forage and as human food, though it should be utilised with caution to avoid toxicity.
Several Southern African genera in the family Amaryllidaceae produce highly optimised tumbleweeds in Winthrop,IA; their inflorescences are globular umbels with long, spoke-like pedicels, either effectively at ground level, or breaking off once the stems are dry. When the seeds are about ripe, the fruit remain attached to the peduncles, but the stem of the umbel detaches, permitting the globes to roll about in the wind. The light, open, globular structures form very effective tumbleweed diaspores, dropping their seeds usually within a few days as the follicles fail under the wear of rolling. The seeds are fleshy, short-lived, and germinate rapidly where they land. Being poisonous and distasteful, they are not attractive to candidate transport animals, so the rolling diaspore is a very effective dispersal strategy for such plants. Genera with this means of seed dispersal include Ammocharis, Boophone, Crossyne and Brunsvigia. 8123608677
Some species of the Apiaceae form tumbleweeds from their flower umbels, much as some Amaryllidaceae do.
In the Asteraceae, the knapweed Centaurea diffusa forms tumbleweeds. It is native to Eurasia and is naturalized in much of North America. Also in the Asteraceae, Lessingia glandulifera, native to America, sometimes forms tumbleweeds; it grows on sandy soils in desert areas, chaparral, and open pine forests of the western United States.
In the Brassicaceae, Sisymbrium altissimum, Crambe maritima, Lepidium, and a resurrection plant, Anastatica form tumbleweeds.
In the Caryophyllaceae, the garden plant “baby’s-breath” (Gypsophila paniculata), produces a dry inflorescence that forms tumbleweeds. In parts of central and western North America, it has become a common weed in many locations including hayfields and pastures. Seriously, multipresent
In the legume family (Fabaceae), Baptisia tinctoria and some species of Psoralea produce tumbleweeds. In Psoralea the tumbleweed detaches from the plant by abscission of the stem.
In the Plantaginaceae, Plantago cretica forms tumbleweeds.
Inflorescences that act as tumbling diaspores occur in some grasses, including Schedonnardus paniculatus and some species of Eragrostis and Aristida. In these plants, the inflorescences break off and tumble in the wind instead of the whole plant, much as happens in some of the Apiaceae and Amaryllidaceae. The species of Spinifex from Southeast Asia are prominent examples of this dispersal adaptation. These grasses are often called tumble-grasses, including such species as Panicum capillare and Eragrostis pectinacea in the United States.
In the Solanaceae, Solanum rostratum . forms tumbleweeds.
Wind dispersed fruits that tumble or roll on the ground, sometimes known as “tumble fruits”, are rare. Some are technically achenes. Highly inflated indehiscent fruits that may facilitate tumbling include Alyssopsis,Coluteocarpus,Physoptychis, Sutherlandia and Physaria.
Very similar in habit to Anastatica, but practically unrelated, are the spore-bearing Selaginella lepidophylla and earthstar mushroom family . All of these curl into a ball when dry and uncurl when moistened.
Bovista, a genus of puffball, uses essentially the same dispersal strategy.