Pediomelum esculentum (Prairie Turnip)
|Also known as:||Large Indian Breadroot, Indian Turnip|
|Habitat:||sun; dry prairie, often rocky soil|
|Bloom season:||May - July|
|Plant height:||12 to 16 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Short, cylindrical, densely hairy spike of ½-inch pea-shaped flowers. Flowers are light blue to purple turning creamy with age; the upper petal (standard) is round with darker veins; the lateral wings below it are somewhat lighter in color, inflated over a small keel underneath. The calyx tube and floral bracts are covered in long silvery hairs.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are palmately compound in groups of 5 on a stalk up to 6 inches long. Leaflets are oval elliptic, 1 to 2 inches long, 1/3 to ¾ inch wide, narrowing at the base, rounded, blunt or pointed at the tip, upper surface nearly smooth, undersides covered in flattened hairs. Plant is stout, stems and leaves are erect with multiple branches. Stems are densely hairy.
Fruit is a 1-seeded pod about ¼ inch long.
Both Prairie Turnip and Silverleaf Scurf Pea (P. argophyllum) are restricted to open prairie habitats and commonly encountered in those habitats. As the common names imply this species has a large, starchy root that was utilized by both Native American and European pioneers alike. While I have run across it at several locations in past years, all of my images come from out of state. This species was formerly known as Psoralea esculenta.
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Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in western South Dakota.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?