tumbleweed

Do tumbleweeds have a better love life than you?

When two tumbleweeds love each other very much… 

…they can create a hybrid monster tumbleweed that can threaten the natural ecosystem.

The new species, Salsola ryanii, was first documented in California’s Central Valley in 2002, and is the hybridization of two iconic tumbleweeds.

Researchers from UC Riverside are finding the new Salsola ryanii species is proliferating quickly beyond the Central Valley and has the potential to invade other states in a short amount of time.

The tumbleweed, which originates from Russia and northern Asia, is one of the most successful examples of invasive plants due in large part to its “tumbling” characteristic which allows its seeds to spread rapidly, says Edith Allen, professor of plant ecology at UC Riverside. 

Tumbleweeds outcompete the native species for food and habitats, which can lead to their extinction and a loss of biodiversity. They also cause more wild fires and soil erosion, which can lead to desertification. 

That said, not all non-native species are invasive, according to Allen. To be classified as invasive, a species must become very abundant where it colonizes, replacing the native species and causing damage to the ecosystem where it has been introduced. 

Watch how it happens in “The Good, the Bad and the Tumbleweed”: