Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
The windblown nuisance is actually named “Hairy Panic.”
The Australian city of Wangaratta is being eaten up by a tumbleweed going by the grimly apt name of “Hairy Panic,” according to reports by Australia’s 7 News.
Following an especially dry summer, the town in the state of Victoria is being engulfed by layer upon layer of windblown diaspore, arriving in such large quantities that it can reach up to a house’s roof within a few hours. Locals are being forced to clear out the weed several times a day, only to find it furring up their walls again like some giant beard just a few hours later.
“You know that you've got a good couple of hours work ahead of you and that's always sort of displeasing."
These huge piles of Hairy Panic—Latin name: Panicum Effusum—aren’t all that common. Wangaratta residents believe the unusually high volume comes from a neglected paddock nearby, whose owner has literally let it run to weeds. Beyond posing a fire risk and a potential hazard for sheep, the plant itself isn’t inherently harmful. But as the video below shows, the diaphanous, ghostly coating it has given to Wangaratta’s houses takes some dealing with.