Plant Image
Willow Lake Tr - Sue Smith

Yavapai County Native & Naturalized Plants

Salsola tragus - prickly Russian thistle

Synonyms: Salsola iberica, Salsola kali
Other Common Names: Russian thistle, tumbleweed
Plant Form: Forb

Family: Chenopodiaceae

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Willow Lake Tr
Sue Smith
Young plant - spring
Willow Lake Tr
Sue Smith
Plant - summer
Willow Lake Tr
Sue Smith
Forb Plant Description

Origin: Introduced   Life Cycle: Annual
General Desc: Not a true thistle. This annual, a native of Russia, was accidentally brought to South Dakota in the 1870s in a shipment of flax seed.
Height: 1/2 to 4 feet


Habitat Description: Disturbed areas, roadsides, cultivated fields, coastal and riparian sands, semideserts, deserts, eroded slopes; cultivated dryland agriculture, overgrazed rangeland.
Plant Communities: Desert Scrub, Interior Chaparral, Semidesert Grasslands, Pinyon Juniper Woodland, Riparian, Disturbed Areas
Elevation: 150 - 7000 feet

Flower Characteristics

Color: Whitish, pinkish to green     Shape: Inconspicuous in elongated clusters     Tubular: N     Flowering Period: May - Oct
Description: Flowers are whitish to pink, minute, and without petals. They grow at the base of leaves on upper branches.

Leaf and Stem Characteristics

Leaf Color: Grayish-green     Leaf Type: Simple     Leaf Shape: Narrow     Leaf Margin: Smooth     Leaf Attachment: Alternate     Leaves Clasp: N
Hairs: Stems     Spines: Y
Leaf Description: Early leaves are up to 2 inches long, string-like and soft. Later leaves are bractlike, small, awl-shaped ending in spines.

Fruit and Seed Characteristics

Fruit Color: Black   
Fruit Type: Capsule
Fruit Notes: Seed capsules look like pink or orange flowers.
Seed Notes: Seeds are spread as mature plants break off at ground level and are scattered by the wind as tumbleweeds. Rapid germination and seedling establishment occur after only brief and limited amounts of precipitation.

  Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Version 7.0  
Last Updated: May 10, 2017  
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