Western salsify is a widespread introduced plant to North America; it occurs in nearly every State except for a couple in the south east and Hawaii (USDA, 2014). It is common to find in fields, roadsides, and other open sites.
It is a member of the sunflower family and its flowers are similar to the appearance of dandelion flowers except they are distinctly larger and have long narrow bracts. The flowers open in the morning, track the sun and close by the late afternoon. The leaves of the plant are difficult to distinguish prior to the plant bolting as the leaves are grass-like. Salsify also exudes a milky sap when the plant is broken. It is considered to be monocarpic meaning it can be an annual or perennial but it completes its life cycle at sexual maturity (Mangold & Lansverk, 2011). Each flower produces many large seeds that are wind dispersed. Salsify has a taproot.
Western salsify is common to disturbed areas and can colonize areas that have a disturbance regime. The seeds of salsify are used by birds and have been shown to make up large portions of blue grouse diets in Oregon (Mangold & Lansverk, 2011). It is also utilized by pocket gophers as they readily feed on the roots. Prior to plant maturity it is browsed by wildlife but not with high frequency (Mangold & Lansverk, 2011).
Mangold, Jane & Lansverk, Allison, “Western Salisfy” Montana State University 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2014 from: http://www.msuextension.org/invasiveplantsMangold/documents/Publications_bulletins/salsify.pdf
USDA, NRCS. 2014. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 18 March 2014). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.