Russian Thistle

Salsola tragus

Photo © by Michael Plagens

Photographed in Phoenix, Maricopa Co., Arizona. May 2, 2004

Photo © by Michael Plagens

Photographed along the Gila River near Goodyear, Maricopa Co., Arizona. December 2006.

ANNUAL : Robust weed of disturbed ground. Plants may grow to several meters in diameter and take a nearly spherical shape. Eventually the dried plant breaks loose from its root system to be tumbled along by the wind - dispersing its seeds along the way.

ARMED. Many of the leaves are stiff and sharply spine-tipped. Lower, dead leaves remain firmly attached and sharpened deterring bare-handed weed pullers and herbivores alike.

LEAVES: Leaves are narrow and somewhat thickened/fleshy. Tips are spinescent.

RANGE: Introduced. Frequent throughout the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico at roadsides, near agriculture and river flood plains and in major washes. Several closely related, similar species have been delineated by botanists.

FRUIT: Dry single-seeded capsule encircled by winged bracts.

FLOWERS: Green with papery bracts and mostly inconspicuous. Pollen is dispersed by wind and is allergenic for many people.

Amaranthaceae -- Amaranth Family

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More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page

Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 22 May 2004,
updated 22 June 2021.