© Nancy Goulden
||6 - 12 inches
Single, hairy, erect stems arise from a tuberous root. Leaves alternate on the
stem, each with five spreading leaflets. Flowers are blue-purple on spikes that stand out
from the plant resembling a candelabra.
The swollen tap root of this plant, which may be as large as 2 inches in diameter, gives
it the name prairie turnip. The roots were collected in large quantities as
food by the American Indians. Roots were eaten raw or cooked and dried to store for
winter. As with several related plants, this scurf-pea distributes seeds by natural
abscission. As the plant dries, the stem breaks away at the soil surface and the seeds are
spread as the plant tumbles across the prairie. Bread-root Scurf-pea is found on upland
prairies throughout Kansas.
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Text: Iralee Barnard
Design: Jim Mason