The Enemy: Western salsify (Tragopogon dubius)
Strategy: This biannual plant infests disturbed areas, abandoned lots, nonfarmed acres and roadsides. Many people call it goats beard or giant dandelion. It has narrow leaves that resemble a grass early in the spring. It will get three to five stalks on which a large yellow flower is produced. These flowers open early in the morning and close during the heat of the day. Most kids enjoy this plant, as when it matures, it produces a large plume — a fluffy parachute attachment to the seed — the seeds can ride wind currents on. Each time I see someone blowing the seeds into the air I think of job security.
Attack: Salsify can spread across miles at a time riding the winds. Once established, it can fill any open space in the habitat. If left unchecked, it can become a field of yellow. It has a large taproot that is quite edible (tastes like oysters I hear), but it is this taproot that allows it to steal important water and nutrients.
Defense: Hand pulling can be effective, as it is a simple taproot. If the plant is broken off before the top 3 inches of the root, it will grow back. Mowing often creates a worse problem as people tend to mow once it has set seed, thus blowing the seed around. In early spring, 2,4-D is effective. When it gets more mature, the best weapon is Opensight at 3.3 ounce or Milestone at 7 ounce or try Vanquish/Clarity. This will also control many other broadleaf weeds. Early detection is key to controlling this invader; call your local weed professional for proper identification.