When tumbleweeds quit tumbling – and eventually, they all do – it’s usually because they’ve gotten caught on a fence.
Eventually, another tumbleweed will blow along, and that one will get caught in the same fence. That will happen again, and again, and again until what you get is a massive of mess of tumbleweed tangle hung up on the fence line.
These are a nuisance, and if you asked them, most any landowner unfortunate enough to end up fostering such a tumbleweed colony would happily let you have as many of them as want. And, strange as it may sound, people are doing just that, and Paula Mejía wrote about it in a new story in Texas Monthly.
Tumbleweeds are, evidently, a hot item in home décor. Mejía says people are collecting them in West Texas and then selling them on sites like Etsy and eBay. There’s a big range in price: individual plants can sell for as little as $30, whereas tumbleweed chandeliers can cost thousands.
Mejía says the tumbleweed trend is due, at least in part, to the pandemic.
“I think the people are cooped up and can’t do things the way they normally might,” she said. “And so people have been in their immediate spaces and saying, ‘Well, OK, maybe it’s time to do all these home improvement projects that we haven’t had time to do.’”
One of the reasons they’re coveted is because the tumbleweed is a symbol of the American West – even though they’re not American; they’re actually an invasive species.
“Something that is such a trope of the West is that farmers have been trying to get rid of [tumbleweeds] for centuries and have not done so,” Mejía said. “As far as I understand it, tumbleweeds hitched a ride in some flaxseed crops from Eastern Europe in the 1800s.”
Soon, they spread, until tumbleweeds covered much of the western United States. There are concerns that this new decorative trend could disperse them even further.
“When people take them out of the landscape, they can inadvertently spread seeds further. So people have to take care to really just bag them up carefully, and make sure that they aren’t spreading,” Mejía said.