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Tumbleweed Bonanza Brings Woes to Colorado April 4, 2014
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Top: A twister of flaming tumbleweeds spins around firefighters conducting a controlled burn. Bottom: Tumbleweeds clog Colorado Springs area street and pile up against homes.
A plague of tumbleweeds has been rolling across parts of Colorado this spring with piles of the iconic range debris piling up against homes so high that some residents resorted to calling authorities to be rescued.

Masses of the dried weeds have also posed a high risk of wildfires across the parched front range landscape, fire officials warn.

Rangeland experts say the “opportunistic invaders” need just a sprinkle of water to sprout and grow into maturity before drying into woody orbs suitable for use in Western movies.

And sprinkles are just what the drought-resistant plants got back in October, allowing them to grow unchecked by grazing livestock, which ranchers had by then moved to greener pastures.

Subsequent high winds broke off the weeds from their roots, allowing them to spread their seeds as they tumbled across the rolling plains and into suburban neighborhoods.

Tumbleweeds are not native to North America. Known as the Russian thistle, they were introduced into the United Sates during the late 19th century.

It’s thought the first seeds arrived in flax shipments to South Dakota, perhaps around 1870 to 1874.

Photos: Thomas Rogers