Thistle - Salsola kali
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Russian thistle is an erect, taprooted, usually pubescent annual. The
plant branches profusely and is spiny. The leaves are alternate, simple,
sessile, and net-veined. The blade is sessile, entire, linear to subulate
with hyaline margins and a distinct hyaline mucro. The flowers are perfect,
axillary or in a terminal spike, and lack petals. The five sepals are
green or pink and persist around the fruit. The fruit is a utricle with
one horizontal-positioned seed.
Plants grow in cultivated fields, pastures, waste areas, irrigated areas,
river bottoms, and often in the edges of forests. It reproduces by seeds
only, but one plant can produce thousands of seeds. The top of the plant
often breaks and rolls along as a "tumbleweed," scattering the
seeds. The seeds are viable for many years.
The spiny habit and massive seed production make this species a troublesome
pest that often displaces natives. The plant can also be poisonous after
a fast growth period with the accumulation of nitrates. The plant is a
host for the sugarbeet leafhopper, which carries a virus causing curly
top in beets. Russian thistle is also the source of blight in other crop
Links to more information
Website, video, and graphics by Rob Nelson
For more information on this plant or management please contact US Army Corp of Engineers
Russian Thistle Video
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