When I saw this – I thought, ‘Wow what a massive dandelion!’ My internet research has revealed some interesting information about this beautiful puff ball.
Purple Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius)
Asteraceae (Sunflower Family).
Purple salsify is a stout, introduced biennial growing to 3-4’ high with alternate linear to lanceolate leaves clasping the stem and milky sap. There are about 90 purple ligulate flowers with 5-pointed tips on each flowering head. With a blooming period of April to July, T. porrifolius is an occasional weed in disturbed places, orchards and fields to as much as 5000’ in elevation, grows in much of the California Floristic Province, and is native to Europe. Another more common species is T. dubius, which also has yellow flowers and phyllaries longer than the ligules, and which may sometimes be encountered in the San Bernardino Mts. Some of the other common names for this species are goatsbeard, vegetable oyster and john-go-to-bed-at-noon. In Europe, it is often grown as a vegetable, and most if not all parts of it are edible.
I found this one on a Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View on my way home one sunny morning.