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Vegetable Oyster Plant Tragopogon porrifolius

Previously known as:

  • Tragopogon australis
  • Tragopogon barbirostris
  • Tragopogon sativus
  • Tragopogon sinuatus
Phonetic Spelling
tra-go-POH-gon po-ree-FOH-lee-us
Description

Purple Goat's Beard is an ornamental, biennial wildflower with an edible root. It is often found along roadsides, vacant lots, woodlands, and grasslands. The plant is a member of the Asteraceae or Aster family. There are many common names including Oyster Plant and Purple Salsify.

The wildflower is native to the Canary Islands, portions of Europe, North Africa, and Saudi Arabia.

The origin of the genus name, Tragopogon, is derived from two Greek words. Tragos means "goat," and pogon means "beard." Beard references the feathery hairs produced when the plant produces fruit. The common name Oyster Plant references the flavor of the roots that supposedly taste like oysters. Purple Goat's Beard references the color of the flowers and the derivation of the genus name. The definition of Salsify is an edible European plant with a long root like a parsnip.

Purple Goat's Beard performs best in full sun and sandy, loamy, and clay soils. It reproduces by seeds, and the seeds require 8-10 days to germinate. They should be sown in late summer or early winter. In the first year, the vegetative parts are developed, and in the second year, the purple or mauve-colored flowers evolve.

The plant has a thick and fleshy taproot. The young plant is in a form of a rosette until the flower stem forms. The rosette and stem leaves are grass-like. The flowers bloom from April to August. They are mauve-colored ray florets that look much like a daisy. The fruit looks like a dandelion puffball. The seed is in the brownish fluffy pappus and is easily dispersed by the wind.

The Purple Goat's Beard has ornamental, edible, and herbal properties. The flowers and grass-like leaves would add interest to a Wildflower Garden or Cottage Garden. The young shoots of the plant may be used like asparagus. The roots are best harvested in the late fall and during the winter. 

The Purple Goat's Beard hybridizes with the Yellow Goat's Beard (Tragopogon pratensis) to produce Tragopogon x mirabilis. This hybrid has dual-colored flower petals. The inner petals are yellow and the outer edges are purple.

Quick ID Hints:

  • larger species, up to 4 feet tall
  • the foliage is grasslike with uncurled leaves
  • the flowers are purple to mauve-colored, daisy-like
  • the fruits are like dandelion puffballs
  • the edible root tastes like oysters

Insects, Diseases, and Other Problems:

This plant has very few pests or diseases. White rust and powdery mildew are possible. Mice and voles may eat the roots over the winter.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#biennial#wildlife plants#cottage garden#sap#mauve flowers#edible roots#grass-like#edible leaves#wildflower garden#food source roots#pollinator garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#biennial#wildlife plants#cottage garden#sap#mauve flowers#edible roots#grass-like#edible leaves#wildflower garden#food source roots#pollinator garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Tragopogon
    Species:
    porrifolius
    Family:
    Asteraceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Purple Goat's Beard is edible and has herbal qualities. The roots are eaten as a vegetable and reportedly tastes like an oyster. The plant has been used for medicinal purposes, including treatment for gall bladder obstructions, jaundice, arteriosclerosis, and hypertension.
    Life Cycle:
    Biennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Canary Islands, Europe to the Mediterranean
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Algeria, Baleares, Baltic States, Canary Islands, Corsia, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Romania, Sardegna, Saudi Arabia, Sicily, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, West Himalaya; Introduced: Africa--Cape Provinces, Ethiopia, Free State, Northern Provinces, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho; Australia --Chatham Islands, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia; Canada--Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec; Great Britain; Myanmar; Taiwan; USA--AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IO, KS, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MO, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WA, WI, WY
    Wildlife Value:
    Mice and voles may feed on the leaves and roots. Pollinated by insects. Attracts bees and butterflies.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Colorful
    Edibility:
    The plant's roots and leaves are edible. They taste best if collected before the production of the flower. The roots taste similar to asparagus or oysters. Older roots should be cook, but raw young roots may be grated and used in salads. The flowering shoots can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Wildflower
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    White
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a fluffy pappus or tufts of hair that contain the seeds. It looks very much like the fuzzy dandelion puffballs. The parachute of fine white hairs is about 3 inches in diameter. The fine white hairs are stretched between multiple curved spokes and have a tiny brownish seed at the bottom. The seeds are dispersed by the wind.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers bloom from April to August. Each stalk has a single flower head at the tip. The flower head is 2-4 inches wide and daisy-like with mauve-colored petals. The central disc florets are deep purple to black with yellow stigmas. There are 8 long, tapering sepals that are longer than the petals. There are also 1-2 rings of dark purple filament with gold anthers.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Waxy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cuneate
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are light green and grasslike. They measure 8 to 15 inches long and 0.2 to 0.6 inches in width and alternate along the stem. The leaf base is broad and clasps the stem. The margins have no teeth or lobes. There is a waxy or powdery-like feel to the undersides of the leaves. The leaf blade is lanceolate in shape, linear, and tapers to a long, thin point.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Description:
    The stems are light green, branched, and measure 5 to 20 inches long. The base is in a rosette pattern, and the stems are grasslike. When the stem is cut or torn, it releases a sticky, milky, white sap.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Small Mammals