Russian thistle
Salsola tragus L.


Salsola tragus is an annual herb that can grow to 4 ft. (1.2 m) tall. It was introduced into the United States in the mid 1870s, possibly as a contaminant in flax seed.
Leaves are alternate and narrow. Upper leaves have a sharp point at the apex and are 1.3-2 in. (3.3-5.1 cm) long.
Flowering occurs from midsummer to fall, when small, pink to greenish flowers develop from the leaf axils. Each flower is subtended by 3, spine-tipped leaves.
Fruits are 0.19-0.31 in. (4.8-7.9 mm) in diameter including the wings. Wings are opaque with smooth margins and veins.
Ecological Threat
After Salsola tragus matures it detaches from the root system and tumbles in the wind, spreading seed (like another common name “tumbleweed” suggests). It is native to Eurasia.


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EDDMapS Distribution

EDDMapS Distribution - This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts, herbaria, and literature. For more information, visit

State Regulated List

State Regulated List - This map identifies those states that list this species on their regulated list. For more information, visit

Taxonomic Rank

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Caryophyllidae
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Chenopodiaceae
Genus: Salsola
Subject: Salsola tragus L.

Synonyms and Other Names

Other Common Names:
prickly Russian thistle

Related Scientific Names:
Salsola iberica L. (Synonym)


Plants - Forbs/Herbs