Pediomelum esculentum

Prairie Turnip



3 Pack
Out of Stock

Prairie Turnip has a starchy, tuberous, edible root that served as an important food source for early European Settlers, and still today for many Native Americans.  It may also be referred to as Indian Breadroot or Indian Turnip.  It blooms early summer with light blue flowers in a dense spike. In the fall, this perennial plant full of ripe seeds, will detach itself and tumble across the prairie, scattering its seeds. It was formerly classified as Psoralea esculenta.

Species of genus Pediomelum are legumes. Most legume species harbor beneficial bacteria called rhizobia on their roots. Genus-specific strains of this bacterium called inoculum can aid in the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen and improve long-term health of native plant communities. Inoculum is naturally-occurring in most soils and additional amendment is usually not needed. However, in low fertility soils it may be necessary. Genus-specific strains are available at

Live Plant Shipping Table

Spring Fall Age/Size
Potted 3-Pack May/June September 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep pots

Pediomelum esculentum - Prairie Turnip

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

This map shows the native and introduced (adventive) range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

4 Questions asked on Pediomelum esculentum

What month do we dig up turnips in the prairie?
Hi Gina. Great question and one that took me a while to find. We've never had Prairie Turnip at the Nursery that wasn't in the garden beds for bare root sales. I finally found an online journal printed by the University of South Florida, of all places (because this plant is only native to Mid Western states west of the Mississippi River.) Anyway, buried within the journal that interviewed Native American elders, it said that they would find and dig them when they were in flower, so mid-summer would be the time!

I should also say that Prairie Turnip grows very slowly, so an harvest-size tuber would be many years old.
Regarding Prairie Turnip and when to harvest, you might find this posting useful:
Thank you Margaret. That is fascinating history. We learned a lot!
I belong to The Prairie Enthusiasts (Northwest Illinois chapter) and want to comment on seed we purchased from you. Pediomelum esculentum - after trying to scarify the seed with sandpaper and getting no result (I looked at the seed under a microscope for some evidence of abrasion) I switched tactics. I put the seed into the freezer overnight, poured boiling water over it the next day and let the water cool to room temp. I then planted the seeds and got 100% germination! The seed was stratified on April 22 (C-10) and put into soil under grow-lights on May 2. All seedlings were up and growing by May 7 and have long since been planted into the Rare Plant Garden.
Thank you very much Rickie! We agree so have changed the Germ Code from "C(10)" to "B".
Hello, I want to make sure I get the order right. It seems to me like I boil, then scarify. Is that correct? Thanks!
Hi Travis. We are still determining whether boiling, abrasion, or a combination of both is the most effective way to scarify Prairie Turnip seeds. I would start by abrading the seed and see if they imbibe water overnight. If the seeds do not appear to rehydrate, follow with the boiling technique. Or do your own experiment to compare the two options - let us know your results!


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Soil Moisture
Medium-Dry, Dry
12 inches
Bloom Time
May, June, July
Bloom Color
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Code