Unruly Tumbleweeds Are Overtaking This Australian Town

A menace with the name “hairy panic” doesn’t sound like something you’d want to encounter the moment you step outside. But that’s what residents of Wangaratta, in southeast Australia, are dealing with every day as dry conditions are causing mounds of tumbleweeds to pile up outside their homes.

Also known as Panicum effusum, the fast-growing plant can be found throughout the continent of Australia. During dry spells, large masses of the dead grass form tumbleweeds that travel across the land, dispersing seeds along the way. Wangaratta residents are proclaiming this summer to be the worst in recent memory, with seas of hairy panic reaching up to the roofs of some houses.

The town council hasn’t deemed the situation a fire hazard, so citizens are being forced to clear their overwhelmed yards themselves. Most residents are devoting several hours each day to get rid of it, only to discover a new cloud of weeds crowding their property the next day. Some locals believe an unkempt paddock on a nearby farm is the source of the unwelcome invader. You can witness the extent of the issue in this video:

[h/t Yahoo 7 News]

Banner image courtesy of Prime7 News Albury.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Watch a Tree Release a Massive "Pollen Bomb" Into the Air
iStock
iStock

In case your itchy, watery eyes hadn't already tipped you off, spring is in the air. Some trees release up to a billion pollen grains apiece each year, and instead of turning into baby trees, many of those spores end up in the noses of allergy sufferers. For a visual of just how much pollen is being released into our backyards, check out the video below spotted by Gothamist.

This footage was captured by Millville, New Jersey resident Jennifer Henderson while her husband was clearing away brush with a backhoe. He noticed one tree was blanketed in pollen, and decided to bump into it to see what would happen. The result was an explosion of plant matter dramatic enough to make you sniffle just by looking at it.

"Pollen bombs" occur when the weather starts to warm up after a prolonged winter, prompting trees and grasses to suddenly release a high concentration of pollen in a short time span. Wind, temperature, and humidity levels all determine the air's pollen count for any given day, but allergy season settles down around May.

After determining that your congestion is the result of allergies and not a head cold, there are a few steps you can take to stave off symptoms before they appear. Keep track of your area's pollen report throughout the week, and treat yourself with antihistamines or nasal spray on days when you know it will be particularly bad outside. You can also keep your home a pollen-free zone by closing all the windows and investing in an air purifier. Check out our full list of seasonal allergy-fighting tips here.

[h/t Gothamist]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Why Some Trees in Norway Are Missing Their Rings
iStock
iStock

Dendrochronologists are experts at reading tree rings. They can learn a great deal of information—including past climate in an area and the age of the tree—by taking a tree core sample and reading between the lines (literally).

But as the BBC reports, one climate researcher was stumped when she discovered that many trees in the Norwegian village of Kåfjord were missing their rings. Extreme weather and invasive insects can cause some degree of damage to trees, but not enough to render them ringless.

Claudia Hartl, from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany, knew that these trees dated back to 1945, but that alone wasn't enough information. Two other clues that helped Hartl and her colleagues solve the mystery were location and history. During World War II, Nazi soldiers moored the Tirpitz—the largest battleship of Hitler's navy—off the waters of Kåfjord to intercept vessels carrying Allied supplies to the Soviet Union. The Germans released an artificial smoke containing chlorosulphuric acid to conceal the ship's location, and this is believed to be the root of the trees' problem.

Artificial smoke could have damaged the needles of the trees, halting the photosynthesis process and stunting the trees' growth, researchers found. It takes time for the trees to recover, but it is possible. One tree saw no growth at all from 1945 to 1954, but after 30 years its growth had returned to normal. Hartl presented the findings at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna this week [PDF].

"I think it's really interesting that the effects of one engagement are still evident in the forests of northern Norway more than 70 years later,” Hartl told BBC News. She believes her "warfare dendrochronology" will unearth similar findings elsewhere in the world.

[h/t BBC News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios