August 2016 Biodiversity Spotlight

Tragopogon mirus (the Remarkable Goatsbeard)

Photo courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History Photography Department

Tragopogon mirus, or the Remarkable Goatsbeard, is a species of plant native to the eastern United States. One thing that makes T. mirus remarkable is that it is a polyploid, or an organism with more than two paired sets of chromosomes. More specifically, T. mirus is categorized as an allopolyploid or a polyploid with chromosomes derived from different species. In contrast, autopolyploids are polyploids with multiple chromosome sets derived from a single species.

T. mirus is one of only a few species (polyploid or not) for which the time of origin is known with a high degree of certainty. Tragopogon mirus originated in eastern Washington through the hybridization of T. dubius and T. porrifolius, which were both introduced to the region from Europe in the early 1900s (based on herbarium records). The species has formed independently at least seven times in different locations in eastern Washington, as well as in the vicinity of Flagstaff, Arizona. Tragopogon mirus is fully fertile and is recognized as an established species despite its recent and (apparently) unusual origins, which are not unusual at all for plant species.

Digitized specimen records and modeling software have been used to develop an ecological niche model for T. mirus in North America; see map.  Based on the current distribution and climatic preferences of the species, this map represents the potential habitat range into which T. mirus may colonize in the future.  Ecological niche models can provide tremendous insights into species distribution alterations due to climate change or colonization.  For more information about ecological niche modeling, see the iDigBio Ecological Niche Modeling Crash Course Workshop.

Learn More!

  • See the paper that provides the original description of the species and its origin (Ownbey 1950), the treatment of Tragopogon in Flora of North America, the geographic distribution of T. mirus 40 years after its first report (Novak et al. 1991), and an account of the many independent origins of T. mirus and the related species, T. miscellus (Symonds et al. 2010).
  • Read the species account in Flora of North America.
  • Find Tragopogon mirus specimens in the iDigBio Portal.


Contributed by Pam Soltis, Blaine Marchant, and Molly Phillips