Constructing the Tumbleweed Tree

Building the Tree in 1957
Building the Tree in 1957

The honor of building our Tumbleweed Tree is completed by the Parks Operations Division staff. A highly qualified and enthusiastic group is chosen to construct the City’s holiday crown jewel.

Each year, city employees have to search vacant lots and farm fields around the city for more than 1,000 tumbleweeds. As the City continues to develop and grow, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find tumbleweeds. The Parks crew has to start their search for tumbleweeds earlier each year. They even have to search as far out as the Gila River Indian Reservation for the dried thistle bushes. Not any old tumbleweed will do. It must be well-rounded and 3 feet in diameter, and just turning brown at the time of its “harvesting.” It takes 12 truckloads of thistles to create the perfect tree. The tumbleweeds are then stored and dried until construction begins.

A two-piece metal center pole is bolted to the ground. A ring is installed on top of the pole, and a four-piece bottom ring is constructed and bolted to the center pole. Thirty cables are installed from the top ring of the pole to the bottom anchor ring, creating a tree shape. The star is placed on top of the structure.

Chicken wire is installed over the cables to provide the framework for the tumbleweeds which are then tied to the frame, and shaped. The tree is pre-sprayed with fire retardant, given two coats of white latex paint (25 gallons), and 50 pounds of silver glitter is the final coat on the tree.

Once the tree is dry, the workers add 1,200 lights. The whole process takes approximately 10 Parks Maintenance Workers and about 13 working days to complete.

The official lighting of the Tumbleweed Tree takes place each year during the Annual Tumbleweed Tree Lighting Ceremony and Parade of Lights.

History of the Tumbleweed Tree  Facts about the Tumbleweed Tree