A ‘Zombie’ Plant Roams Free on the Wyoming Prairie
The dead roam the prairie of Wyoming. With the right conditions, they could easily swarm in large numbers. These plants are one of the few that don't stay planted to the ground. If you've spent any time in Wyoming, it is highly likely that you've run across these zombies. They are tumbleweeds.
Those bunches of thistles are in fact dead. Most life reproduces when they are alive. In a video from Curiosity Steem and PBS, they describe the life cycle of a tumbleweed. The Russain Thistle (aka the tumbleweed) dispenses its seeds after it is dead and dried up. Thus it allows the plant to spend all of its energy to live and not to reproduce. Once severed from its base, the plant then uses the Wyoming wind to roam the open prairies throwing its potential offspring along the way.
Although these "zombies" are not a threat to eat your brains, the biggest danger is they are a fire hazard. In large numbers, they can also trap or barricade people inside their homes or vehicles. Thankfully, there is no need to stock up on canned food and shotgun shells ... yet.
Fun Facts About Tumbleweeds
- According to Mother Nature Network, the tumbleweed helped provide sustenance for livestock during the Great Dust Bowl. The seeds were some of the only edible things that could be found.
- In Chandler, AZ, the town, according to TripSavvy, constructs a giant Christmas Tree out of tumbleweeds.
- The Geologic Society of America found in their preliminary results that tumbleweeds might be able to clean up uranium-contaminated land. Scientists found that these thistles can soak up toxins from the soil.
- As the tumbleweeds full name implies (Russain Thistle,) the plant is actually an invasive species. In some areas, as written about in TakePart.com, they have been particularly problematic for the local ecosystem.
- The tumbleweed is so iconic to the west, songs and movies have been written about them. They are often seen as the drifter in the wild west. Even Roy Rogers sings about those tumbling tumbleweeds.