Australian town gripped by hairy panic

Properties are smothered after dry weather encourages growth of tumbleweed.

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    Hairy panic is not uncommon in Wangaratta but this year the dry conditions have produced a bumper crop [Reuters]
    Hairy panic is not uncommon in Wangaratta but this year the dry conditions have produced a bumper crop [Reuters]

    A town in the Australian state of Victoria has been inundated by tumbleweed.

    Gardens, homes and garages in Wangaratta have been smothered by the plant, with some homes blocked in by piles two metres high.

    The fast-growing Panicum Effusum weed, more commonly known as "hairy panic", has been drifting into the town for days.

    One resident claimed she spent eight hours clearing up the tumbleweed on one day, only to have it return the next.

    Hairy panic is native to inland Australia. It is not uncommon in Wangaratta but this year the dry conditions have produced a bumper crop.

    Residents suspect that the tumbleweed is coming from a nearby unmaintained field, but the local council has refused to help homeowners to clean it up. Despite its dry, flammable nature, the council does not consider the plant a fire risk.

    This is not the first time that a town has been inundated by tumbleweed.

    In January 2014, tumbleweed in a town in the US state of New Mexico covered homes and blocked streets and, just two months later, towns around Colorado Springs were also swamped. Strong winds brought excessive amounts of the plant debris, causing piles of tumbleweed more than two metres high.

    In this region of the US, tumbleweed comes from the Russian thistle plant. This is a prickly plant which makes the tumbleweed more dangerous and can even scratch your car as they drift past.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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