Photo by Nancy Goulden

Common Name: Bread-root Scurf-pea

Scientific Name: Pediomelum esculentum

Family: Bean

Longevity: Perennial

Height: 6 - 12 inches

Bloom Period: May and June


Description: 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.

Comments: 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.