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Piles of tumbleweed are plaguing a South Jordan neighborhood

Dec 31, 2021, 6:02 PM | Updated: Jan 1, 2022, 9:50 am
tumbleweed South Jordan...
John Scallion from the City of South Jordan sanitation division clears tumbleweeds from the backyard of homes in the city. (Credit The City of South Jordan)
(Credit The City of South Jordan)

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — People who live in the Daybreak neighborhood in South Jordan have a strange problem — piles and piles of tumbleweed.

“I’m calling it the great tumbleweed adventure of 2021,” says Rachael Van Cleave with the city of South Jordan.

Over 1,000 pounds of tumbleweed has been chopped up

In a Facebook post, the city said it has chipped over 1,500 pounds of tumbleweeds in the last week alone.

“It’s been occasional in the past,” said Van Cleave. “This year, we’ve had four storms that we’ve gone out to collect tumbleweeds on, and this one has been particularly bad.”

 

Because it was so bad the city wants to make sure that residents don’t get trapped inside their homes. So, it’s placed four 30-yard dumpsters around Daybreak for people to dump their piled-up tumbleweeds. 

“I was asking our sanitation guys how many hours they put into this,” she said. “And they said we have seven guys for three days, with a total of 25 hours.”

The city reportedly used all of its stormwater staff and sanitation staff to take care of the tumbleweed issue. 

So how did we get 1,500 pounds? The city started putting the weed through the woodchipper and weighing the load at the city dump. 

“We saw all the crazy pictures that people were showing of their whole back yards filled up with tumbleweeds and their garages blocked,” said Cleave. “A lot of our residents reported they couldn’t even get out of their homes because the tumbleweeds were so high and stacked up against their houses.”

What are tumbleweeds?

Essentially, they’re an invasive plant.  

One horticulturist says the plants are originally from China.

“I believe they were grain crops that were imported and got their start from there,” says Utah State University horticulturist Taun Beddes, who also co-hosts the KSL Greenhouse Show. “And because our climate is similar to where they are native, they don’t have many native predators either.”

There are several species of weeds that end up tumbling in the wind. The most common one is called the Russian Thistle

By mid-summer, the plant starts to grow into a tumbleweed. The week can get two to three feet tall before it detaches from its root in the fall, and spreads its seeds as it tumbles.

“They roll and spread hundreds of seeds per plant,” he said.”As they tumble around in these areas that have new construction, especially, they become really common because the ground isn’t being cultivated or taken care of.”

And the dry climate helps them, too.

Construction, land development contributing to the increase in tumbleweeds

“Basically, this is all new construction, the far west side of town, and to the south and west of there are fields,” says Cleave. “In those fields grow lots and lots of tumbleweeds.”

Beddes says he couldn’t agree more. 

“If you’re living in areas that have fallow fields or just sage rushy type areas, and you border those even on the foothills, then you’re more prone to get tumbleweed than if you live in a more established part of the city,” he said. “Or if you live in a city to where there are empty lots or lots around you, then the tumbleweeds will grow on those, too.”

Will this happen in other parts of the state?

Tumbleweeds are nothing new to Utah, and definitely nothing new to the western United States generally.

“They seem to have years where there’s a lot more of them, and then they’ll subside a little bit,” says Beddes. “A lot of it is dictated by precipitation patterns. If you have a really wet spring, and there’s lots of water in the ground table, then you may have a different weed takeover. But when conditions more favor the tumbleweed, then it would be worse.”

Utah could be seeing more tumbleweeds over the last three or four weeks because of how windy it has been lately. That will blow them farther and farther into the cities.

You could make some money off your tumbleweeds

Google “buy tumbleweeds online” and you’ll find a selection of tumbleweeds to buy. 

They range in price from a crisp $68, a cheap $13, or even fashion your own lights and really make some bank. Just check out all these listings on Etsy.

And if you really want to go for it, check out what they’re doing in West Texas.

Jessica Lowell contributed to the reporting of this story.

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Piles of tumbleweed are plaguing a South Jordan neighborhood