Yellow Goat's Beard

By June, yellow goat's beard (yellow salsify) is blooming on our Littleton, Colorado, farm and will continue to do so for the next month or so.  Native to Europe, this tall, showy wildflower was introduced to North America and is now found throughout most of the U.S. (except the extreme Southeast) and southern Canada.

A member of the aster family, yellow goat's beard favors fields, roadsides and disturbed areas; along the Colorado Front Range, it has colonized open areas of the plains, piedmont and foothills.  The plant is easily identified by its erect, hollow stem (up to 4 feet tall) and large yellow flowers with both inner and outer rays; the latter open on sunny mornings and close by noon (hence the folk name: Noon Flower).  The globular, brownish seed heads, four inches across, mimic those of dandelions.  Meadow salsify, also known as meadow goat's beard, is shorter in height (up to 2 feet) and is characterized by curved stems and leaves; this European species also adorns our farm.

Both species of goat's beard attract a variety of bees and butterflies; I have observed house finches nibbling on their petals and a host of birds feast on their numerous seeds.  Grazing mammals, on the other hand, tend to ignore these wild herbs due to their milky sap.  Among many wildflowers absent on manicured, herbicide-doused lawns, goat's beard is a welcome and beautiful addition to the summer landscape of our farm.