Hairy Panic Infests Small Australian Town

April 12, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. tumbleweed / ˈtʌm bəlˌwid / (n.) – a type of plant with branches that easily get detached and carried by the winds
ExampleTumbleweeds can cause a lot of mess during dry seasons.

2. propagate / ˈprɒp əˌgeɪt / (v.) – to grow and spread
Example: The wild grass propagated when the gardeners failed to pull them out.

3. hazard / ˈhæz ərd / (n.) – a cause of danger
Example: Smoking is a health hazard.

4. compost / ˈkɒm poʊst / (n.) – fertilizer made from a mix of decaying substances like dead leaves
Example: Some farmers make compost because they cannot afford commercial fertilizers.

5. infestation / ˌɪn fɛˈsteɪ ʃən / (n.) – the spreading of unwanted plants or animals in a place
Example: The crops in the farm were destroyed during the rat infestation.


Read the text below.
Huge heaps of tumbleweed called hairy panic have accumulated in a small Australian town called Wangaratta, leaving roof-high piles and causing inconvenience to residents.

Hairy panic is a type of tumbleweed native to Australia. It grows very quickly in wet conditions. Due to recent heavy rains in the area, the tumbleweed propagated abundantly in an unused farmland in the town. When the rains were followed by extremely hot days, huge masses of dried hairy panic piled up and were carried by the wind throughout the town. Annoyed residents spent hours every day trying to clean up the mess.

The local town council is not involved in the cleanup since hairy panic is technically not considered a fire hazard and is therefore outside of their responsibility. However, the council is also considering several ways to assist the citizens. One of the ideas they suggested is to give large leaf blowers to street sweepers. Another is to give the residents containers where they can put the hairy panic they collected, since these can be used to make compost.

In addition, hairy panic can also be used to feed sheep. However, consuming too much of the tumbleweed can be harmful since it can give sheep a deadly disease called yellow big head.

While the residents of Wangaratta and its town council used disposal to address the tumbleweed infestation, a scientist from the United States is proposing to kill the tumbleweed instead of throwing them out. Dana Berner and his colleagues are suggesting to release two particular types of fungi that will kill the tumbleweed without harming other plants. The fungi have proven effective in killing tumbleweed in Russia and Greece, but Berner’s team is still waiting for the approval of the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Service Inspection before they can test the fungi’s effectivity in the United States.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree with the solution of killing tumbleweed with fungi? Why or why not?
·         If the tumbleweed infestation happened in your community, what would you do?

Discussion B

·         How can serious infestations affect the people in a community?
·         What can be done to prevent infestations from worsening?

April 12, 2016