There are probably few things that have become more iconic of the Western United States than tumbleweeds. But interestingly, there is not just one plant that uses the wind to move the entire plant in order to propagate its seeds. According to the Wikipedia article "Tumbleweed." The following plant groups use the wind dispersal strategy of breaking off at the root and sending the whole plant tumbling.
- Amaranthaceae (now including Chenopodiaceae)
The plants that we most commonly associate with the word "tumbleweed" is an invasive species from Eurasia in the Amaranthaceae family or Salsola tragus. The plant is commonly called "Russian thistle" and is said is said to have been imported in about 1870 with shipments of flax seeds to South Dakota. So when the pioneers crossed the plains back in the mid-1800s, they did not see tumbleweeds.
One time when we were in Arches National Monument in Southern Utah, (now Arches National Park) we experienced a very windy day and the road we have driven into to an area we were exploring became covered with six to ten foot deep piles of tumbleweeds. The only way through was to ram our car into the weeds and smash them down. It was a very interesting experience.