Skip to Content
Return to Home Page
Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Common salsify  (Tragopogon porrifolius)

Click on images to enlarge 

Life stages of Common salsify seedling flower mature plant seeds fruiting heads

Common salsify is a perennial or biennial broadleaf plant. It is common on agricultural land and in other disturbed areas. It is found throughout California, except the Great Basin and deserts, to about 5600 feet (1700 m). The taproot and other plant parts are edible. Animals feed on its leaves and fruit.


Disturbed sites, fields, orchards, vineyards, perennial crop fields, roadsides, vacant urban lots, trail sides in woodlands and grass lands, open areas in coniferous forests, and other unmanaged, disturbed places.


Seedlings are narrow and grasslike and grow out of a tube formed by the bases of the cotyledons (seed leaves). The cotyledons are linear, about 4-1/3 to 5 inches (11–13 cm) long, stalkless, hairless, and more or less fused at the base. First and later true leaves of the seedling are usually about 3-1/2 to almost 5 inches (9–12 cm) long, and resemble the cotyledons.

Young plant

Plants remain in the rosette form until the flower stem develops at maturity. At this stage they are grasslike.

Mature plant

Plants grow erect, range from 2 to 4 feet (60–120 cm) tall, and have few stem branches. Rosette and stem leaves are grasslike with parallel veins, slightly fleshy, release a milky sap when torn, and range from about 5 to 20 inches (15–50 cm) long. The leaf base is broad and clasps the stem. Leaves are alternate to one another along the stem. Taproots are thick, fleshy, usually branched, and also contain a milky sap.


Flowering takes place from April through July. A thick stalk bears a single flower head at its tip. The flower head contains purple flowers that cluster, daisylike, and is surrounded by 8 or 9 narrow and green modified leaves (bracts) that are much longer than the petals. A related weed, western salsify, has yellow flowers. Flower heads are generally open and track the sun from morning to midday.


Mature fruiting heads look like those of dandelion puffballs. The tiny, oblong to narrowly football-shaped fruit is about 1 to 1-3/5 inches (2.5–4 cm) long, and has a thin projection that ends in a tuft of soft white hairs. Each fruit contains one seed.


Reproduces by seed.

Related or similar plants

  • Western salsify, Tragopogon dubius

More information