Stems usually papillose to hispid, rarely glabrous. Perianth segments with prominent midvein and rigid, subspinose apex. Bracteoles distinct, not swollen. Flowering late summer-fall. Seashores, salt marshes, sandy beaches in coastal regions, other saline maritime habitats, very rarely in ruderal inland habitats; 0-10 m; introduced; St. Pierre and Miquelon; N.B., Nfld. and Labr. (Nfld.), N.S., P.E.I., Que.; Conn., Del., Maine, Md., Mass., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Pa., R.I., S.C., Va.; Europe.
Annual herb, becoming a tumbleweed 10 cm - 1 m wide Stem: upright, much-branched from at or near base, often curved, becoming rigid. Leaves: alternate, stalkless, 1 - 6 cm long, reduced upwards (eventually giving way to the bracts), thread-like to narrowly linear with a small spine at the tip. Flowers: solitary or few in upper axils, subtended by two small bracts, greenish, small, with five distinct sepals and no petals. Bracts alternate, reflexed, egg- lance-shaped with a spiny tip. Stamens five. Stigmas two. Fruit: one-seeded (utricle), surrounded by the persistent, often winged sepals, 3 - 10 mm wide, subtended by two small bracts and one larger one. Bracts spine-tipped and much longer than the sepals. Wall (pericarp) adhered to the seed. Seed horizontal, black, spherical, thick.
Similar species: No information at this time.
Flowering: mid-July to early October
Habitat and ecology: Introduced from Asia. Found in railroad ballast and in sandy soil. Grows along the beaches of Lake Michigan.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Etymology: Salsola comes from the Latin word salsa, meaning salty. Tragus comes from the Greek word tragos, meaning "hairy part of the ear" or goat.
Author: The Morton Arboretum
Glabrous or hispidulous, freely and diffusely branched, becoming rigid, forming a loose ball 2-10 dm that eventually breaks off at the ground and becomes a tumbleweed; lvs narrowly linear, 1-3 (the lower to 6) cm, reduced upwards and passing into the divergent, spinescent, ±setulose-serrulate, basally scarious-margined bracts; bracteoles 2.5-3.5 mm, also pungent; sep at anthesis soft, muticous, the midvein obscure; fruiting cal 3-10 mm wide, the lower fls often with the sep merely carinate, the others with the sep developing a prominently veined wing on the back; embryo closely coiled in several layers; 2n=36. Native to Eurasia, now widespread as a weed, abundant in the drier parts of w. N. Amer., less commonly in our range. (S. kali var. tenuifolia; S. iberica; S. pestifer; S. ruthenica)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
FNA 2003, Heil et al 2013
Duration: Annual Nativity: Non-Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Introduced annual; up to 100 cm; many-branched stems which detach at the base after fruiting; often w/reddish, longitudinal striations; glabrous or somewhat hairy. Fresh young plants have succulent stems and leaves, which harden with age. Leaves: Alternate, sessile, thread-like, 1-5 cm, rigid with maturity; sharp-tipped. Flowers: Solitary flowers located in leaf axils; flowers perfect, 5-merous, without petals; sepals pink-white 2.5-3 mm. Fruits: Small; seeds shiny black, 1-2 mm wide. Ecology: Widespread on disturbed ground; 0-8,000 ft (0-2440 m) Distribution: Native to Eurasia and introduced to every continent in the world. Throughout the Americas and in every state in the US except AK. Notes: Native to Eurasia. This is the genus of the common tumbleweed. S. tragus is an annual, has many-branched stems, leaves which are mostly <1mm (in dried specimens) and become rigid and sharp-tipped at maturity, and small flowers in the axils. This plant is a very problematic invasive in North America. Livestock, mule deer, and elk all forage on it, and pronghorn eat summer growth. Seeds are eaten by 8 species of granivorous birds and small mammals. It is also used as cover by birds and small mammals. Host plant for Western Pygmy Blue butterfly. Ethnobotany: Extremely tasty as cooked spinach - eat whole plant up to 5 inches tall- double boil to remove bitterness and only eat young plants. Young plants also for sheep and horse feed. Navajos used it to treat influenza, small pox, and insect bites. Etymology: Salsola is from Latin salsus, for salty, while tragus is ancient word for goat. Synonyms: Salsola australis, S. iberica, S. kali subsp. ruthenica, S. kali subsp. tenuifolia, S. kali subsp. tragus, S. pestifer, S. ruthenica Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2014, AHazelton 2015