Western salsify

Identification & Biology
Alias' : goat’s beard, yellow salsify, western goat’s beard, yellow goat’s beard, common salsify
Latin Name : Tragopogon dubius
Category : Terrestrial Plants
Description :
  • Annual, biennial or perennial plant that grows 0.3 – 1 m tall 
  • Linear, grass-like leaves that clasp the stem at the base and have a milky sap 
  • Dandelion-like flower heads with yellow ray flowers 
  • Swollen receptable beneath the flower head 
  • 10 long, narrow bracts extend beyond the flowers 
  • Flowerhead matures into a fluffy sphere of seeds that resembles a dandelion, but much larger 
  • Fleshy, thick taproot 


The name salsify means “a plant that follows the sun”, which is exactly what western salsify does. Each plant may produce up to 14 flowering stalks, with one flower at the top of each stalk that produces 20 – 120 seeds. The blooming period is from June to September. Once the flowerhead matures, it forms a fluffy sphere of seeds with long, slender beaks and a white, umbrella like pappus that allows the seeds to spread by wind. Western salsify seeds typically remain viable in the soil for only two years.  

Western salsify is commonly confused with the non-native meadow salsify (Tragopogon pratensis) which has very similar looking flower heads. Meadow salsify has bright yellow flowers, while western salsify flowers are usually pale yellow. As well, western salsify has a swollen receptable underneath the flower head, and longer more noticeable bracts than meadow salsify. 


Native to Eurasia and northern Africa, western salsify is adapted to a variety of soil types ranging from sandy to clay loam. It most commonly occurs on disturbed sites such as waste areas and roadsides, but may also be found in grasslands, shrublands and coniferous forests. Large populations have been reported from the southern Kootenay, Thompson-Nicola and Okanagan regions of BC.  

Impact & Risks
  • Western salsify outcompetes native species and desirable forage species. 
  • It can form dense stands and reduce biodiversity. 
Prevention & Mitigation

The most effective way to ensure that your lands do not become infested with western salsify is by prevention. Here are some recommendations to prevent invasion: 

  • Maintain your crops and natural lands in a healthy, vigorous condition to ensure a competitive plant community. 
  • Regularly patrol your property for western salsify and immediately control or remove infestations before seed set.  
  • Cooperate with adjacent landowners and encourage them to prevent western salsify spread. 
  • Immediately re-vegetate disturbed, bare soils with a suitable seed mixture that provides dense, early colonization to prevent weed invasion.  
  • Do not move contaminated soils to a new area.  
Treatment & Disposal
  • Dig, hoe or pull plants before seed set.  
  • As western salsify plants grow larger, they become difficult to pull without breaking the stem because of the large taproot. 
  • Mowing is effective if done before seed set.   
  • Mulching may suppress plants.  
  • Chemical control is also an option. Before applying herbicides, read the label for full use and precautionary instructions.  
  • For further information on the selection and application of chemicals to protect your crop, contact AgriService BC at 1-888-221-7141 or email AgriServiceBC@gov.bc.ca.  
  • Frequently monitor previous infestations for new growth.  
  • There are currently no biocontrol agents (natural insect enemies) available for use in BC.  
Okanagan Distribution

Priority Level Definitions

Watch For - Poses a significant threat (very high risk) and does NOT presently occur in the region OR is relatively new to the region and is very limited in extent.
High - High risk/impact; limited population with significant potential to spread in the region.
Medium - Medium risk/impact; limited distribution – broader population distribution with potential to spread further in a region.
Low - Low risk/impact; may be widespread or not, may be of concern in specific situations with certain high values – e.g. specific agriculture crops. Some species may be treated primarily with biological control agents.