Trivia

Hard

The Tumbleweed, An Icon Of The American West, Actually Hails From?

China
Australia
Russia
Sudan
Tumbleweeds caught against in a fence in the American West.
Amit Patel/Flickr

Answer: Russia

Although there are quite a few symbols that call to mind the frontier history of the American West—ten-gallon hats, spurs, and low-slung six guns to name a few—nothing quite says dusty old cowboy town like a tumbleweed, well, tumbling by.

While the tumbleweed might be synonymous with the Wild West, you might be surprised to find out that it isn’t a frontier native. In fact, it’s not native to the region, or even anywhere in the entire North, Central, or South American landmasses for that matter. The invasive weed hitched a ride with Russian immigrants in the late 19th century. The immigrants brought flax seed from their home country and those seeds happened to be contaminated with the seeds of the weed Russian Thistle (Salsola tragus).

By the time anyone even noticed the weed spreading, it was essentially impossible to control. One full-grown thistle contains around 250,000 seeds, and when the plant is fully mature, it dries out, snaps off its stalk, and tumbles away in the wind. The tumbling motion quickly spreads the hardy and numerous seeds over a large area. Further, the plant requires very little precipitation and happily grows in adverse conditions.

Modern ranchers find the weed to be quite an annoyance since the weed displaces grazing grass and the dried up tumbleweeds gather along fences and buildings, thus posing quite a fire hazard. But we do owe the sturdy weed a little bit of credit. During the horrible drought of the 1930s Dust Bowl that decimated cropland in the region, the Russian thistle saved the beef industry. When nothing else would grow and regular feed was non-existent, the hardy thistle rapidly colonized the cattle pastures and entire herds of cattle survived on thistle alone.

Trivia

Hard

The Country With The Largest Population Of Camels Is?

Trivia

Hard

A Man Was Freed From Jail After Outtakes From Which TV Show Provided Him With An Airtight Alibi?

Trivia

Hard

What Was The First Smartphone?

Trivia

Hard

To Visit Mount Doom In Real Life You Must Travel Where?

Trivia

Hard

Scientists Can Reconstruct The Path Lewis and Clark Followed By Searching For?

Trivia

Hard

Which Two Comic Book Icons Shared The Same Movie Set Mansion?

Trivia

Hard

What Animal Product Was Once Widely Used To Clarify Beer During Production?

Trivia

Easy

“Silverbacks” Are Not A Distinct Species Of Gorilla, The Name Is A Designation Of?

Trivia

Easy

Which Party Game Got Off The Ground Thanks To A Tonight Show Appearance?

Trivia

Hard

Vanilla Beans Are Not Beans At All But The Seed Pods Of?