Why Do Tumbleweeds Tumble? | Deep Look

Why Do Tumbleweeds Tumble? | Deep Look


Thanks to CuriosityStream for supporting PBS Digital Studios. They’re prickly. Restless. Rambling. But if most plants are perfectly content to
stay in one place, why does the tumbleweed hit the open road? Tumbleweeds start out as tiny seedlings. They sprout in late winter. By summer the plant takes on its round shape. They grow flowers nestled between thorny leaves. Inside each flower, a fruit with a single
seed develops. This fruit is different than something delicious
like cherries. Lucky for the cherry tree, a bird will carry
the fruit away in its belly and disperse its seeds. But the tumbleweed takes matters into its
own hands. Come fall, the plant dries out and dies. The seeds are still in there. Gusts of wind easily break the dead tumbleweed
from its roots. See where it was attached? It looks kind of like bones. A special layer of cells at the base of the
plant makes this clean break possible. Then the skeleton is off, shaking loose tens
of thousands of seeds as it goes. It turns out, some living things spread their
seeds better when they’re dead. Like cowboys in a Western, tumbleweeds head
out on the open range. But these icons of the American West actually
come from the east, all the way from Ukraine. They’re a common weed in Russia too. That’s why they’re called Russian thistle. They might have hitched a ride here in the
eighteen hundreds hidden among flax seeds. Nowadays, they might amble onto the freeway
and make you swerve. Or get tangled up in your irrigation system. They could even roll into your neighborhood,
pile up and become a fire hazard. But a green lawn isn’t what the tumbleweed
is looking for. It can’t compete with plants like grass. It needs a barren place like this abandoned
onion field north of Los Angeles. With each bounce the tumbleweed sends its
seeds flying. It spreads them out so they all get plenty
of sunlight and space. The coiled-up embryo inside just needs a little
water to sprout. And soon enough, this plant will strike out
on its own. Thank you to CuriosityStream for supporting
PBS Digital Studios. CuriosityStream is a subscription streaming
service that offers documentaries and nonfiction titles from some of the world’s best filmmakers,
including exclusive originals. Want to learn more about the American West? Check out their series “Pioneering the American
Frontier.” Get unlimited access today. And for our audience, the first 60 days are
free if you sign up at CuriosityStream.com/DeepLook and use the promo code deeplook during the
sign-up process. Want to keep up with Deep Look’s journey? Sign up for our newsletter by clicking the
link below. And subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. Tumbleweeds have an unusual way of getting
around. Here’s another one. Watch Deep Look’s episode on pulsating slime
molds. See you next time!

100 thoughts on “Why Do Tumbleweeds Tumble? | Deep Look

  1. hey deep look can u do a video of these stinging plants I don’t know what they r called cuz once My leg touched the stinging plant and it stung

  2. What i felt in the vidio you may ask?….

    Me:awww so cute when they tumbled
    Also me :there so funny when they tumbled
    Also also me:why do i feel so strange when i see a tumbleweed?
    Also also also me:why am i so satisfied?

    Hit like if you are too

  3. *2:20 a.m.
    Me: Ok, it's time to get a comfortable bed time~
    YouTube: Have you ever wonder how tumbleweed tumble?
    Me: Uhm, well… *tap

  4. Because if it just skidded along the ground, it be called a skidweed. But it tumbles so it’s called a t u m b l e w e e d ? My opinion!

  5. I know there are different videos in Deep Look, such as ones about mosquitos, fish, you name it but this by far is my favorite.

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