Goat's-beard, Tragopogon dubius

Life Cycle

Biennial.

Propagation

Reproducing only by seed.

Stems

Stems (Fig 5) 30-100cm high, smooth, round, somewhat fleshy, from a deeply penetrating, thick taproot; stemless, juvenile annual plants and first-year biennials without stems resemble shoots of grass.

Leaves

Leaves (Fig 5, 6) - alternate (1 per node), long, linear, very grass-like but smooth and fleshy rather than firm or harsh; younger leaves somewhat downy-hairy; dry, brown, shriveled leaves (Fig 1:a) from the previous year's rosette frequently persisting around the base of leafy-stemmed and flowering plants.

Flowers and Fruit

Flower (Fig 2,3) heads large, 4-6cm across, showy, pale lemon-yellow, borne singly at ends of stems and branches (resembling Meadow goat's-beard); stalk (Fig 1:b) at the base (Fig 1:c) of the flower head very thick, hollow, tapering gradually downwards to normal stem thickness (Fig 1:d); involucral bracts (Fig 1:e) usually 10 or more, green, 2.5-4cm long at flowering, elongating to about 7.5cm or longer as the seeds mature (Fig 4); only ray (strap-shaped) florets (Fig 1:f) present, the outer ones opening first and the unopened inner florets somewhat resembling disk florets; flower heads opening and pointing towards the sun each morning, twisting slightly and following the sun until midday, and closing during the afternoon; mature seed head (Fig 1:D)a white, fluffy sphere, 7-10cm in diameter; each seed including its slender beak about 3cm long and tipped with a white, umbrella-like circle of feathery bristles (pappus); whole plant, except the seed, with a white, milky juice. Flowers in June and July and occasionally continues until September.

Roots and Underground Structures

Long, tapering taproot (Fig 7).

Habitat

Goat's-beard occurs throughout Ontario in pastures, meadows, roadsides and occasionally gardens.

Distinguishing Features

Flowering plants are distinguished by their long, smooth, slender grass-like leaves, their lemon yellow flower heads surrounded by usually 10 or more, slender, tapering, green involucral bracts (Fig 1:e) which are longer than the yellow florets (Fig 1:f),their thick, hollow, gradually tapering stalks (Fig 1:b) below the flower heads, and their large, spherical seed heads. Non-flowering plants are distinguished by their erect, fleshy. smooth-textured, grass-like leaves with milky juice, the leaves usually long, gradually tapering, and not having crisped or wrinkled margins, and their long, tapering taproots (Fig 7).

Toxicity

In Ontario, goat's beard is considered to be a noxious weed.

Often Mistaken For

Meadow Goat's-beard: However the involucral bracts of Meadow goat's beard are as long as or shorter than the florets. With Goat's beard the involucral bracts are much longer than the florets (Fig 3).

Legislation

Noxious under the Ontario Weed Control Act.

Edibility

Plants tend to be bitter, fibrous and strong. Purple salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius), which is in the same genus as goat's-beard, has been used as a vegetable with a root that is described as having the taste of oysters. Tilford, G. (199) Edible and Medicinal plants of the West. Mountain Press Publishing Company. Montana, USA. Zidorn, C., Lohwassen, U., Pschorr, S., Salvenmoser, D., Ongania, K-H., Ellmerer, E., Borner, A., Stuppner, H. (2005). Bibenzyls and dihydroisocoumarins from white salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius subsp. porrifolius). Phytochemistry, 66(14):1691-1697.


Figure #1.

Goat's-beard. A. Plant before flowering. B. Flower head about to open. C. Flower head in full bloom. D. Mature "seed" head. E. 1 "seed".


Figure #2.

Opening yellow flower head of goat's-beard.


Figure #3.

Flower head of goat's-beard, early June morning in Central Ontario.


Figure #4.

Mature 'seed' head.


Figure #5.

Grass-like leaf of goat's-beard.


Figure #6.

Stem and leaves of goat's-beard.


Figure #7.

Taproot of goat's-beard.