Other common names

Yellow salsify, western goat’s beard, yellow goat’s beard, wild oysterplant

Scientific name

Tragopogon dubius

Family

Asteraceae

Description

This grass-like plant is easily recognized by the large 2- to 4-inch-diameter puffball that develops from the yellow flowers. Plants stay in the ground-hugging rosette form until flowering occurs.

Western salsify plant

Typical plant growing in a disturbed site. Photo by W. Hanson Mazet.

Leaves

Long, narrow and grasslike, but thicker than grass blades. Leaves ooze a milky sap when broken.

Western salsify leaves

The narrow, grass-like leaves are wider at the base, and can be up to 12 inches long. Photo by S. Donaldson.

Stems

Flowering stems are produced in the second year of growth. The stem is enlarged and hollow next to the flower. Stems also ooze a milky sap when broken.

Flowers

Single yellow flowers appear at the end of long stalks. Long pointed bracts extend below the petals, giving a starry look to the flower.

Western salsify yellow flower Western salsify white flower

The bright-yellow flowers open early in the day and close by noon (left). The flower develops into a large, highly visible puff ball (right). Photos by W. Hanson Mazet.

Roots

Grows a thick, branched taproot; oozes a milky sap when broken.

Native to

Europe

Where it grows

Roadsides, vacant lots, pastures and disturbed areas

Life cycle

Biennial (lives two years)

Reproduction

Reproduces by seed carried on the wind

Western salsify seedling

The seedling appears grass-like. Photo by J. DiTomaso, UC Davis.

Control methods

As with all biennials, preventing seed production is essential. Control before seed heads are produced.

Mechanical

Cultivation is successful in controlling this plant. Dig, hoe or pull young plants. Plants pull easily. Mow when flowers first appear and repeat mowing as needed.

Cultural

Plant desirable vegetation to help suppress it.

Biological

None commercially available.

Chemical

Try broadleaf selective herbicides such as 2,4-D + dicamba on young plants. Dicamba can persist for several months and may damage desirable plants in the area treated. Glyphosate can also be used on young plants but is nonselective and damages both grasses and broadleaf plants. Pre-emergence herbicides can be used to manage existing seed banks.

References

DiTomaso, J.M. and E.A. Healy. 2007. Weeds of California and Other Western States. University of California Publication 3488.

Goat’s beard or western salsify. Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide.

Western salsify. Ohio perennial and biennial weed guide, OARDC.

Whitson, Tom D. (editor). 2002. Weeds of the West. University of Wyoming, Jackson, Wyoming.

USDA-NRCS Plants Database. 2011. PLANTS profile for Tragopogon dubius, USDA.

Donaldson, S. and Hanson Mazet, W. 2011, A Northern Nevada Homeowner’s Guide to Identifying and Managing Western Salsify, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-11-62

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