Posts Tagged ‘Salsify’

Salsify (genus Tragopogon) is a fairly common plant all around Davis, CA.  It grows in grassy fields and on roadsides as a low cluster of leaves for its first year, and then plants grow to a height of about a meter in the spring of their second year making them biennials.  They are all tall now, and have just blossomed.  The synchrony of flowering was very impressive.  For about one week all the salisfy plants had beautiful, purple flowers at their tops (see photo below).  Then, seemingly all on the same day, all the flowers closed.  This high level of flowering synchrony helps ensure that all the plants get pollinated by increasing the odds that any pollinator that visits a salsify flower will have just recently visited a different salsify flower and so carrying appropriate pollen.  But how do the plants know?  How do they all coordinate so effectively?

The genus Tragopogon has about 140 species.  They were originally native to Eurasia, but have been introduced to North America and Australia and have spread widely there.  They have a large taproot that is usually 10 to 20 cm long and resembles a pale carrot, and which is commonly eaten in some parts of the world.  I have tried it on a couple of occasion and found it to be rather good once cooked thoroughly and mashed like potatoes.  After the flower dies, they produce a large head of wind-dispersed seeds that looks like a huge dandelion head.  They really are quite attractive plants!

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