Yellow Salsify

On my walks along the country lanes of Idaho, this wildflower is one of the most handsome and prominent. As you can see, it looks like a giant dandelion but with a more sculpted-looking stem. During the morning, the striking yellow flowers open and face the sun. Later in the day they close up into those very pointy-looking buds again. Eventually, they turn into large puffballs, like a dandelion but about three times as big.

Here is some growing in front of Silver Sage, which was our last featured wildflower.

Naturally I assumed these things must be native to the Intermountain West. They seem so at home here. But I could find them nowhere in my Central Rocky Mountain Wildflowers guidebook. So, after Googling things like “yellow chicory images” and “looks like a giant dandelion images,” I at last discovered … it’s Yellow Salsify. Native to Eastern Europe, according to one web site. Yet another distinctive “Idaho” wildflower that is actually introduced! But look at how well it is getting on with that silver sage!

By the way, when I Googled “salsify” just now, I discovered that there is a purple variety and that the taproot is edible. This somewhat ameliorates my disappointment at finding out that it’s not a yellow variety of chicory as I had first hoped, and that there are, in fact, no yellow varieties of chicory. So, if you are into foraging, send me your salsify recipes!

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