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Wednesday Watercooler


A man wearing a giant tumbleweed for a hat in front of vineyards.

A typical California specimen of Kali tragus, shown here eating a human brain to create a zombie servant.

Tonight’s music video is “Helpless Blues” by The Bamboos performing live on KCRW.

The Bamboos are a funk-soul outlet from Australia. Their signature sound masterfully binds classic and current sounds together and we hear it live when Dan Wilcox hosts Morning Becomes Eclectic. Watch / Listen to the full session here.

It seems the United States is under invasion by tumbleweeds. Via a New Scientist article with a photo of an impressive specimen from Los Angeles being held aloft by two grown humans:

The most common tumbleweed, Kali tragus, isn’t native to the US – it is an invader from Eurasia, and is also known as Russian thistle. The alien hitched a ride in seed shipments to South Dakota in the 19th century, just in time to spread west and become a handy metaphor in cowboy movies for the desolation of ghost towns on the frontier.

The plant grows in the normal way until it is mature and dry, when it breaks from its roots and rolls away, scattering seeds as it does so. This is a fantastic method of dispersal in an arid environment.

This picture was taken in east Los Angeles, and shows a highway maintenance crew removing tumbleweed from a road. LA isn’t the only city under siege: Colorado Springs had its own tumbleweed invasion in March, as have parts of New Mexico and Texas.

Our friends at Wikipedia have more information on Kali tragus:

Kali tragus is a species of flowering plant in the amaranth family known by the common name prickly Russian thistle, or simply Russian thistle. It is perhaps the most common species of tumbleweed, and may be known by this common name. This plant is native to Eurasia but it has long been present in North America as an introduced species and a common weed of disturbed habitat […] It was probably first introduced to the United States in the 1870s when a shipment of flaxseed from Russia was contaminated with its seed and delivered to South Dakota.It now occupies a great number of habitat types, though it prefers disturbed areas and is often the first and only colonizer in habitats where no other plants can grow.

This is an annual herb forming a rounded, brambly clump of intricately branched, erect, curving stems growing up to a metre long. The green to red stems are hairless to hairy. They are lined with rigid, leathery, needlelike, spine-tipped leaves up to 5 centimetres long. […] A large plant can produce 200,000 minute seeds.[3]

The plant dries out as the fruits develop, then breaks off at the base of the stem and is carried about by the wind, the dry fruits and seeds dropping off as it rolls. This is the plant’s method of biological dispersal.

Have these rolling invaders appeared where you live? As we make our country less habitable for humanity I, for one, welcome our new rolling amaranthine overlords.

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Photo by emdot released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and