An Australian town is in the midst of a “Hairy Panic!”
As MSN reports, a nuisance tumbleweed, known as “hairy panic,” is burying the town of Wangaratta, Victoria, a town of 17,000 people, about 157 miles from Melbourne. The plant (officially, Panicum effusum) grows naturally all over Australia. But severe drought conditions in the Wangaratta region have produced a dearth of the plant, which, in dry conditions, rolls up into tumbleweeds that are blown about by the wind.
And the people of Wangaratta are up to here with it. Literally.
“Hairy panic” tumbleweed invades town in Australia and this is just from today!
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) February 18, 2016
The hairy panic has covered yards, homes, garages. In some places, it’s up to six feet high.
And there’s no getting rid of it. Every time a Wangaratta resident gets rid of the stubborn weed, the wind blows, and a new batch of it rolls in. Resident Jason Perna described his frustration, via Yahoo News.
“It is frustrating. You know that you’ve got a good couple of hours work ahead of you and that’s always sort of displeasing.”
— AJE News (@AJENews) February 18, 2016
One resident spent eight hours one day getting rid of the weed. When he woke up the next day, it was back.
The weed got its “hairy panic” name because, unlike other plants in its genus, it has hair-like tendrils along the edges of its leaves. It grows rapidly, and in drought conditions, it can dry out and roll up into tumbleweeds.
Although it’s not dangerous to humans, it can cause a fatal condition in sheep, according to BBC News, if they eat too much of it. Veterinarian Richard Evans said the plant is not dangerous to household pets.
“The important thing is it’s not going to kill people’s dogs and cats, it just makes a hell of a mess.”
Mostly, it’s just a nuisance.
It’s also a fire hazard — especially in these drought conditions that caused the hairy panic epidemic in the first place. But, local government officials, as of this post, have yet to announce any plan to deal with it, leaving residents to bury themselves out from under it.
Hairy Panic isn’t the only plant that produces tumbleweeds. Several plant species have evolved to form tumbleweeds as a method of dispersing the plant’s seeds in dry and windy conditions. In the western part of the U.S., for example, iconic images show tumbleweeds rolling across the plains. What you’re seeing is most likely Russian thistle (Kali tragus), and like “hairy panic,” it can be a nuisance.
For starters, its branches are so thick and prickly that it can easily scratch your car if the wind blows the plant up against it. And like Wangaratta and its “hairy panic” problem, whole towns in the U.S. have found themselves buried in tumbleweed. In January, 2014, for example, tumbleweeds buried the town of Clovis, New Mexico, according to CBS News. Two months later, towns around Colorado Springs were also buried in tumbleweeds, forming piles up to six feet high.
Back in Australia, “hairy panic” isn’t the only thing burying whole communities. In 2012, according to this Inquisitr report, the town of Waga Waga was buried in, of all things, spider webs. Severe flooding in the region caused an explosive growth of spiders, whose webs blanketed the entire city.
For the residents of Wangaratta, there’s really not much they can do about their “hairy panic” epidemic except wait it out.
Wangaratta residents believe a nearby farm, which hasn’t been maintained properly, is to blame for the recent “hairy panic” epidemic.
[Photo by AP Photo/P Solomon Banda]