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Prairie Turnip (Pediomelum esculentum)

Life history

Species overview

Prairie Turnip (Pediomelum esculentum), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in dry prairies, especially on dolomitic hillsides near oak woodland margins. Blooming occurs late May through late July; fruiting occurs early July through late August. The optimal identification period for this species is early June through late August.

Synonyms: Psoralea esculenta


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Conspicuously spreading-hairy; fruit is covered in many coarse, stiff hairs; main petioles are 4 to 10 cm in length.
  • Flower characteristics: Spikes 3 to 8 cm long, very dense, covered in white hairs; flowers blue, 15 to 20 mm long.
  • Fruit characteristics: Covered in many coarse, stiff hairs; beak flat, evidently longer than the body.
  • Leaf characteristics: Divided into 5 oblong to inverse lance-shaped to egg-shaped leaflets that are 2 to 6 cm long; petioles 4 to 10 cm long and covered in numerous white hairs.


  • Blooming phenology: late May through late July
  • Fruiting phenology: early July through late August
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is early June through late August


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Quercus velutina, Q. alba, Andropogon scoparius, Bouteloua hirsuta, Aster sericeus, Besseya bullii, Cirsium hillii, Astragalus crassicarpus, Delphinium virescens, Artemisia frigida, Sorghastrum nutans.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Prairie Turnip (Pediomelum esculentum). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Pediomelum esculentum in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in dry prairies, especially on dolomitic hillsides near oak woodland margins.
  • Soils: Dry, sometimes calcareous soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Prairie Turnip. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Dry Prairie 3
Dry-mesic Prairie 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Prairie Turnip. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • Survey for and control invasive plants prior to conducting timber operations, as these can be spread by vehicles and often respond vigorously to increased light; see forestry BMPs for invasive species.
  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.


Prairie Turnip Photo.

Photo © John Zaborsky.

Prairie Turnip Photo.

Photo © John Zaborsky.

Prairie Turnip Photo.

Photo © Corey Raimond.

Prairie Turnip Photo.

Photo © John Zaborsky.

Prairie Turnip Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition