With a spiky green sheath of bracts surrounding several layers of purple petal-like flowers, salsify (Trapopogon porrifolius) is a beautiful and slightly cruel looking plant. The inner flowers of the head are dusted with yellow pollen that is the perfect ornament on the dark purple petals. Each of the large-ish, showy flowers is actually many flowers, since this is a member of the Asteraceae family. Once the flower has gone to seed, it produces a big dandelion poof that can be a few inches across.
This plant is also called oyster-root, and it was introduced from Europe where the carrot-like root is eaten; the flavor is described as similar to oyster or artichoke. Here in California it is an escaped ornamental, and likes to grow in dry grassy areas. You usually will see it in disturbed places, not too far from town.