Plant Image
Willow Lake Tr - Sue Smith

Yavapai County Native & Naturalized Plants

Salsola tragus - prickly Russian thistle

Synonyms: Salsola iberica, Salsola kali, Salsola australis, Salsola pestifer, Salsola ruthenica
Other Common Names: Russian thistle, tumbleweed
Plant Form: Forb or Subshrub

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: Erect and profusely branched plant with solitary flowers in the leaf axils. Not a true thistle. Plants become tumble weeds at maturity.
Identification notes: Many-branched hairy reddish striped stems; young plants have succulent stems and leaves that harden with age; leaves alternate, without stems, thread-like, sharp-tipped; solitary pink and white flowers in leaf axils, no petals; small shiny black seeds.
Height: 1/2 to 4 feet


Habitat Description: Widespread on disturbed ground.
Plant Communities: Disturbed Areas
Elevation: Below 8000 feet

Flower Characteristics

Color: Pink and white     Shape: Regular in elongated clusters     Tubular: N     Flowering Period: May - Oct
Description: Flowers minute, and without petals, perfect (male and female flower parts), sepals pink and white. They grow in the axils of leaves in the 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 narrow and sharp-tipped.

Fruit and Seed Characteristics

Fruit Color: Pink or orange   
Fruit Notes: 1-seeded (utricle), surrounded by the persistent, often winged sepals. Seed capsules look like pink or orange flowers.
Seed Notes: Tiny seeds are shiny black. Seeds 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
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Version 8.0  
Last Updated: Dec 13, 2022
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