Tumbleweeds may look soft and fluffy from a distance, but strike one with your car and you'll quickly learn how woody, prickly and mean they really are. Just look at what happened when Victorville, California, was buried under tumbleweeds in 201
A new kind of giant tumbleweeds is now thriving in the US. Salsola ryanii is a hybrid that grows larger than its parent plants. It can be up to 2 meters high, so it's not like the sweet little rolling tumbleweeds you see in Western movies.
University of California Riverside researchers studied more specifically why this monster plant thrives, and published a study in AoB Plants magazine.
Salsola ryannii is a cross between two invasive tumbleweed species. It has extra sets of its parent's chromosomes, a condition known as "polyploidy." Polylploidy is common in plants. By comparison, almost all humans have only one set of chromosomes from each parent.
Research suggests that the size and success of the tumbleweed stem from its polyploidy. As a hybrid, it is stronger than its parents.
Norman Ellstrand, Professor of Genetics at UC Riverside and co-author of the study, described Salsoa ryanni as "evil" in a statement last week.
The plant found in California may be trying to expand its territory.
"It's one of the few things that are still green in late summer," said co-author of the study, Shana Welles. "They could be well positioned to take advantage of the summer rainfall as climate change spreads it more."
It may only be a matter of time before the Syfy channel shoots a movie called Tumbleweednado.