Western Salsify

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It looks a bit like a gigantic dandelion, with the “poofball” as my kids called it up to three inches across. Also called Western Goat’s Beard, Wild Oysterplant, Yellow Salsify, Yellow Goat’s Beard, Meadow Goat’s Beard, Goat’s Beard, Goatsbeard, Common Salsify, or Salsify, its European kin, Tragopogon porrifolius, makes an edible root eaten for its mild oyster-like taste.

This plant was new to me in the late 70s, an invasive from Europe, first spreading in the western states, and this past weekend, found everywhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

My kids loved this plant–one we really had to look for back then. If you take a single “parachute” from the head and remove the long stalk and seed at the bottom of it, the top pappus bristle “sail” is so buoyant it will hang in the air like a strange sea creature suspended in a clear ocean, even on a windless afternoon. They would chase it across the pasture until it vanished into the inverted depths of the ocean of mountain air.

Larger image of Tragopogon dubius is here.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. if you have a moment, can you peak over at my latest post and tell me what the yellow flowers in my wildflower photos are? the only thing even close that i can guess is goldenrod, but i really don’t think they are. and the purple, is it bull thistle?

    t’ank ya!