The Russians are Coming

First of all, don’t panic.  I will need your full attention so please close all other browsers windows.

I am here to get you through this, all is not lost.  But the danger is real, and no, I am not wearing a tin-foil hat as I write this.

The Russians are here, and no I’m not talking about her

The Championships - Wimbledon 2010: Day Eight

Or him


Or them


This interloper is far more insidious and far less blonde.  I’ve seen them recently on the Ojai Meadow Preserve, the Ventura River Preserve, and brashly creeping their way down Villanova Road towards my abode.  Those of you with heart conditions may want to avert your eyes… (Cue bad guy entrance music)


Known to super nerds as Salsola tragus (literally “Salty goat” in Latin and Greek respectively).  Known to partial nerds as Russian Thistle, infamous to the rest of us as tumbleweed.


A member of the goosefoot family, the plant’s vibrant green branches crisscrossing in a thorny horny matrix can be quite jarring when seen against the 50 shades of brown of Ojai August.


By late summer these juggernauts can reach six feet high and wide and are covered in these funky pink/grey/brown blooms.


The whole big mass you see is supported by one single stem, which starts to die in September and by the time Santa Anas pick up in fall these buggers are ready to roll…


And roll they do, and not just in the quaint, charming Gary Cooper in High Noon showdown sort of way.



This stuff literally takes out towns. (poor Clovis)


I know, you’re worked up.  I am too.  Should we just pack up and move to Nome? (sorry, tumbleweed has made it to Alaska too).  Fear not, I have a solution.  No, not that stuff…


Nah… Looks fun but those fire department guys get a mite tetchy…


All you need is these:



Even these will work.


No not these.. don’t want you to mangle your toes.


That’s right, a few well-placed blows with the heel of your boot is enough to foil the dastardly villain.  Most specimens I have seen have just started to bloom so this is the perfect time.  Granted, you will look slightly insane standing out on the trail, flailing about as if possessed.  You just tell’em you’re a loyal American doing his or her duty to protect their country.

Be vigilant.

This entry was posted in non-natives, Ojai, rambling and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The Russians are Coming

  1. says:

    Ron, After reading your most enjoyable and informative article I plan to go to my nearest Walmart and buy myself a pair of hiking boots like any red-blooded American will do!! Dad

  2. We are sending the troops in next week for a strike mission at the Ojai Meadows Preserve. These are everywhere this year for some odd reason.

  3. JJ says:

    Creatively presented plan of attack, equipment list, and target date for the mission. How can we fail – or have I heard that before…? An exit strategy may be required (poor Clovis). This naturalized patriot will fight to the end.
    Thanks for the plan and motivation, General Rambler.

  4. ocdreader says:

    It is probably very good therapy too! Think up a superhero (or villain) name and go out stomping.

  5. Myrna says:

    sticker your toes is more like it … great post … thanks … non in our yard, but we keep a watch on our neighbors field

    • ojairambler says:

      Nice to hear from you Myrna, wonder why they seem to be spreading this year…

      On Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM, The Ojai Rambler wrote:


      • myrna says:

        not sure … this one spreading is a different variety … kind of a darker blue green and more stickers … the other variety around as well … got after a batch in neighbors yard with garden gloves … and a hoe on the tough guys!

  6. JJ says:

    Six-year old boys making forts in Salsola tragus are a vector of spread. This breaking news from a OV contractor recalling his boyhood. Unimaginable collateral damage if this gets out.

    • ojairambler says:

      Well that settles it, Russian thistle extermination should be taught starting in Kindergarten, in between naptime and show-and-tell.

      On Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 3:58 PM, The Ojai Rambler wrote:


  7. Cope's Friend says:


  8. zbyhnev says:

    Well, the irony here is almost as massive as the amount of tumbleweed.

    I’ve been looking for a big-enough locality of this species for months now in Europe for commercial use. If you guys can provide some tips where a lot of this bugger grows, I’ll forward the info and maybe we’ll actually come over and do something about it 🙂

    • ojairambler says:

      Love seeing the Rambler getting to other continents!!! Can I ask what use pharma has for the Russian Thistle? Over here it loves to grow in waste areas… Roadsides, trail sides, former cattle-grazing areas.

      • zbyhnev says:

        In Europe, it mostly sticks to the sea shore – sand and pebbles. It tends to succumb in competition with most other plant species on regular soil. Hence what we get (ironically, while *wanting* what’s a pest in the US) is a thin line of a plant here and there, when what we need is pretty much a plantation.

        The company I work for needs the pollen – it’s used to make immunotherapy preparations for, well, Russian thistle pollen allergy. On top of the embuggerance (thank Terry Pratchett for that word) the physical plant causes, it is also a strong allergen.

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