Vaughn HammondMay Weed - Yellow Goatsbeard

Vaughn Hammond, UNL Extension, describes weeds we may find on our land in his monthly articles. A weed is "a plant out of place," and what may be a weed to one person may be a meal for another!

Yellow Goatsbeard (Tragopogon dubius) is an introduced plant that has taken a foothold in most of North America north of Mexico. It is widespread throughout most of the lower 48 states in the US and Canada with the exception of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. As with many of our weed species, Yellow Goatsbeard came to the US with immigrants and was planted as a food source. It also is known as Yellow Salsify, Western Salsify and Wild Oysterplant. The name Wild Oysterplant is indicative of the role this plant played as a food source. The long taproot is purported to have a taste reminiscent of oysters.

The plant's grass-like foliage arises from the taproot and often is confused with a tuft of grass until one or more flower stems with a single dandelion-like flower emerges.  The insect-pollinated flowers open early in the morning and track the sun through the day, then close later in the afternoon. The flower ultimately develops into a seed head similar to the dandelion but larger-3 to 4 inches in diameter on stalks from 12 to 39 inches tall. Flowering can occur from mid-May through September.

Yellow Goatsbeard dies after seed production. Seed production can happen as soon as the first year or as long as up to 14 years after germination. Most commonly, seed production takes place from the second to fourth year. Each flower produces 20 to 120 seeds of two different sizes - small and larger. The seed is disseminated by the wind and can travel over 800 feet. Evidence suggests that the smaller seed is disseminated greater distances than the larger seeds. Research has shown that all but 3% of the seed in the test group germinated over a 13-month period, indicating that there is little contribution from long-term seed banks.

Yellow Goatsbeard is most commonly found in abandoned areas and pastures - undisturbed sites. Areas that receive regular cultivation are less problematic in that even though the plant can live several years, it does not regenerate any other way than through seed germination. There is no vegetative reproduction so cultivation often eliminates the problem. In a pasture setting, livestock will minimally feed on the plant while wildlife will feed more regularly on both the plant and seed. Game birds regularly consume the seed and, depending on the species, goatsbeard can be a significant portion of their diet.

Control in most situations can be achieved through manually removing the plant prior to seed development. If needed, both selective and non-selective herbicides can be used. Whenever using pesticides, read the label carefully and follow instructions regarding proper clothing (gloves, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes, and socks) and applicaton methods.