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Products > Scorzonera hispanica
Scorzonera hispanica - Black Salsify
Image of Scorzonera hispanica
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Perennial
Family: Asteliaceae (Asparagales)
Origin: Spain (Europe)
Flower Color: Yellow
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Synonyms: [Pseudopodospermum hispanicum]
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: 1-2 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: < 0 F
Scorzonera hispanica (Black Salsify) - A tuberous root perennial that grows to 2-3 feet tall with 12 to 18 inch long broad lanceolate mid green colored leaves have slightly wavy leaf margins and arise from long slender and cylindrical blackish taproots. Rising well above the foliage in late spring is an erect branching open inflorescence bearing 2 inch wide heads of daisy flowers consisting of bright yellow all ray flowers at the tips of long peduncles. Below ground the slender succulent tap roots, which are blackish on the outside but with white flesh, can grow up to 3 feet deep by nearly an inch wide in a friable soil. Plant in full sun with fairly regular irrigation. It is tolerant of dry nutrient poor soils and is cold hardy to below 0 F and plantable down to USDA zone 5. This plant is an attractive perennial with show yellow daisy flowers and has long been cultivated as a nutritious root vegetable in Europe and Southwest Asia. The thick black skin of the root is not edible and needs to be removed, which it best done after boiling for about 20-25 minutes since if peeled before one must work with the plants sticky sap and the peeled raw root will also need to be immersed in water mixed with vinegar or lemon juice to prevent it discoloring. Cooked it is often eaten mixed together with other vegetables such as carrots and peas or served on it own like asparagus with a white sauce and after boiling it can battered and fried. The native range of this plant is a bit of speculation since it has been used as a vegetable crop for millennia but it is though native from Southwestern Europe east to the Near East and possibly in in North Africa. It was first described by Carl von Linnaeus in 1753 in his Species Plantarum but with earlier references to it being grown as vegetable dating back several centuries prior. There are also a few theories on the origin of the long used name for the genus. One is that is form an Old French work 'scorzon' meaning "adder" as there was belief that the plant was an antidote for bites of venomous snakes. Another thought it that it might be from the Italian words 'scorza negra' which mean "black bark" or "black peel" for the dark blackish skin of the root. Both of these theories seem plausible and the common names for the plant, Black Salsify, Serpent Root and Viper's Grass also make reference to both of these possibilities. Another common name used is Winter Asparagus since its cooked roots could replace asparagus on the dinner table in winter. The specific epithet makes reference to the early descriptive records of this plant from a collection made in Spain. With all ray flowers this plant is in the Chicory tribe of asters (Cichorieae) in the subtribe Scorzonerinae. The genus Scorzonera was quite large with a diverse number of species but recent DNA studies (Zaika, Maxim al, "Scorzonera sensu lato (Asteraceae, Cichorieae) taxonomic reassessment in the light of new molecular phylogenetic and carpological analyses" PhytoKeys v137, 2020) broke it up with this species reclassified as Pseudopodospermum hispanicum. This name meaning "like" Podospermum, which is another related plant genus whose type species, Podospermum laciniatum, was previously described as Scorzonera laciniata, a name now considered its Basionym. The name for this genus comes from the Greek word podo meaning 'foot' and 'spermum' meaning 'seed' for the pedicel at the base of the seed. Since most still refer to this plant as Scorzonera hispanica. Our thanks to our buddy the meadow master John Greenlee for providing seed of this attractive and interesting plant to us. 

This information about Scorzonera hispanica displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.