AskDefine | Define salsify

Dictionary Definition



1 edible root of the salsify plant [syn: oyster plant]
2 Mediterranean biennial herb with long-stemmed heads of purple ray flowers and milky sap and long edible root; naturalized throughout United States [syn: oyster plant, vegetable oyster, Tragopogon porrifolius]
3 either of two long roots eaten cooked

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of several flowering plants, of the genus Tragopogon, that mostly have purple flowers
  2. The edible root of these plants

See also

Extensive Definition

See also Aruncus, which is also known as "goatsbeard".
The Goatsbeards or Salsifies are the genus Tragopogon of flowering plants within the family Asteraceae. They include the vegetable called salsify as well as a number of common wild flowers, some of which are usually regarded as weeds.
Goatsbeards are forbs growing as biennial or perennial plants. They have a strong taproot and milky sap. They generally have few branches, and those there are tend to be upright. Their leaves are somewhat grass-like. Flower colour varies within the genus, with some yellow species, and some bronze or purple. Seeds are borne in a globe like that of a dandelion but larger, and are dispersed by the wind.
The goatsbeards are natives of Europe and Asia, but several species have been introduced into North America and Australia and have spread widely there.
Some of the more common species of Tragopogon are known, in the regions where they are most common, by the common names "goat's beard", "goatsbeard", "salsify" or "common salsify", without further qualification. These names are therefore inherently ambiguous, and best avoided, or reserved for the genus collectively. In the species list below, the first common name given is the one that seems to be most widely used for that species and is not in significant use for any other species.
The vegetable called salsify is usually the root of Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius; the root is described as having the taste of oysters (hence the alternative common name "Oyster Plant" for some species in this genus), but more insipid with a touch of sweetness. The young shoots of Purple Salsify can also be eaten. Other species are also used in the same way, including the Black or Spanish Salsify, Scorzonera hispanica, which is closely related though not a member of the genus Tragopogon.

The rise of new species

Goatsbeard are one example where hybrid speciation has been observed. In the early 1900s, humans introduced three species of goatsbeard into North America. These species, the Western Salsify (T. dubius), the Meadow Salsify (T. pratensis), and the Oyster Plant (T. porrifolius), are now common weeds in urban wastelands. In the 1950s, botanists found two new species in the regions of Idaho and Washington, where the three already known species overlapped. One new species, Tragopogon miscellus, is a tetraploid hybrid of T. dubius and T. pratensis. The other species, Tragopogon mirus, is also an allopolyploid, but its ancestors were T. dubius and T. porrifolius. These new species are usually referred to as "the Ownbey hybrids" after the botanist who first described them. The T. mirus population grows mainly by reproduction of its own members, but additional episodes of hybridization continue to add to the T. mirus population.

Some species of Goatsbeard


  • Soltis, D. E., Soltis, P. S., Pires, J. C., Kovarik, A., Tate, J. A., & Mavrodiev, E. (2004). Recent and recurrent polyploidy in Tragopogon (Asteraceae): cytogenetic, genomic and genetic comparisons. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 82, 485-501.
commons Tragopogon
salsify in Danish: Gedeskæg
salsify in German: Bocksbärte
salsify in Spanish: Tragopogon
salsify in French: Salsifis
salsify in Lithuanian: Pūtelis
salsify in Dutch: Tragopogon
salsify in Polish: Kozibród
salsify in Portuguese: Tragopogon
salsify in Romanian: Tragopogon
salsify in Swedish: Haverrötter
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