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Serratula tinctoria

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Treasureflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White African Daisy, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
70 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fens, fields, gardens, grassland, heathland, meadows, mountains, riverbanks, riversides, roadsides, rocky places, sand dunes, seaside, wasteland, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Purple, many petals
Small clusters of flowers. Similar in appearance to Knapweed. The flowerheads are purple and thistle-like, up to 2cm across. The bracts are purplish-green. Pollinated by bees and flies.
Saw-wort produces small, dry fruits known as achenes. These fruits develop in the flower heads after pollination. Each achene is a small, one-seeded fruit with a hard outer covering. The achenes are typically dispersed by the wind or may attach to the fur or feathers of animals, facilitating their spread to new locations. The mature achenes of Saw-wort are often brown or dark in color and have a slender shape. They are released from the flower head, allowing them to be carried by the wind to new areas where they may germinate and establish new plants. While the fruits of Saw-wort are not typically consumed by humans, they play a crucial role in the plant's reproductive cycle, ensuring the dispersal and propagation of the species. The focus on Saw-wort's appeal often centers around its vibrant flowers rather than its relatively inconspicuous fruits. The seeds ripen in August and September.
Saw-wort (Serratula tinctoria) is characterized by lance-shaped leaves with distinctive serrated edges, giving them a saw-like appearance. These leaves are arranged alternately along the stems and are typically green in color, with variations influenced by factors such as sunlight exposure and soil conditions. The pointed tips and irregularly toothed margins contribute to the visual appeal of the plant. In some instances, especially during the early stages of growth, Saw-wort may form a basal rosette of leaves close to the ground. The leaves play a crucial role in the overall aesthetic of the plant, complementing its slender stems and, in certain varieties, providing a contrasting backdrop to the plant's vibrant flowers.
Saw-wort is not particularly known for a strong or distinctive fragrance. When the leaves of Saw-wort are crushed, they may release a mild, herbal scent. This fragrance is generally subtle and may not be as prominent as the scents associated with some other flowering plants. The plant is more valued for its visual appeal, especially during its blooming period, than for any pronounced aromatic qualities.
Other Names:
Dyer's Plumeless Saw-wort, Dyer's Saw-wort.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Serratula tinctoria, also known as saw-wort or dyer's saw-wort, is a species of flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. It is native to Europe and Asia and it is a herbaceous perennial plant with a tall stem and large, serrated leaves. It produces large, cone-shaped clusters of small, purple-blue flowers at the top of the stem. This plant prefers well-drained, fertile soils and is often found in grasslands, meadows, and along roadsides. The plant has a long history of use in dyeing, hence the common name "dyer's saw-wort" as the root of the plant yields a blue dye. The plant also has medicinal properties, and it has been used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties.


Saw-wort, scientifically known as Serratula tinctoria, is a herbaceous perennial plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and is commonly found growing in damp meadows, open woodlands, and along stream banks.

The plant can grow up to 1.5 meters tall and has a robust, erect stem that is covered in fine hairs. The leaves are green, lanceolate, and deeply serrated, hence the common name "saw-wort." The flowers are small, dark purple, and are arranged in clusters at the top of the stem.

Saw-wort has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive disorders, menstrual problems, and as a diuretic. In some cultures, the plant was also used to make a yellow dye.

Saw-wort has also been studied for its potential medicinal properties. Some studies have suggested that the plant contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may be useful in treating various health conditions.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Saw-wort is also a popular plant among gardeners. It is relatively easy to grow, and its striking flowers make it a beautiful addition to any garden. The plant prefers moist, well-draining soil and partial shade.

Despite its many benefits, Saw-wort is not without its drawbacks. The plant can be invasive and is considered a noxious weed in some regions. As such, it is important to be mindful of where and how it is planted.

One interesting aspect of Saw-wort is its use in traditional European herbal medicine. It was believed to have a range of healing properties, including as a treatment for digestive issues, urinary tract infections, and gynecological disorders. The plant was also used as a diuretic and to promote sweating. In addition, Saw-wort was used to treat skin conditions, including wounds, rashes, and ulcers.

In modern times, Saw-wort has been studied for its potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. One study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that an extract of Saw-wort was able to inhibit the production of inflammatory molecules in cells, indicating that it may have therapeutic potential for conditions associated with chronic inflammation.

Saw-wort has also been used in some cultures as a dye plant. The plant contains a yellow pigment called serratuline, which can be used to dye fabrics and fibers. However, it is not commonly used for this purpose today.

In addition to its uses in medicine and dyeing, Saw-wort is also an important plant for wildlife. The flowers provide a valuable source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The plant's leaves and stems can also provide food for caterpillars and other insects.

Saw-wort is a fascinating and useful plant with a long and varied history. Whether you are interested in its medicinal properties, its role in traditional herbalism, or simply its beauty and ecological value, Saw-wort is a plant that is worth learning more about.

Saw-wort has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and its use continues today. It is used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, including liver and kidney disorders, rheumatism, and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. In addition, the plant is used to stimulate the appetite and promote digestion. The plant's antioxidant properties have also been studied in relation to cancer prevention.

The anti-inflammatory properties of Saw-wort have also been studied in relation to respiratory conditions. One study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that an extract of the plant was able to reduce airway inflammation in animal models of asthma, suggesting that it may have therapeutic potential for this condition.

Saw-wort is also a plant that has a long history of use in culinary traditions. In some regions, the leaves and young shoots of the plant are used as a cooked green or added to soups and stews. The plant has a slightly bitter taste, which can be tempered by blanching the leaves before cooking.

Finally, it's worth noting that while Saw-wort is a useful and versatile plant, it can be toxic in large quantities. The plant contains a number of compounds that can cause digestive upset, and excessive consumption can be harmful. As with any herbal remedy, it is important to use Saw-wort in moderation and consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using it as a treatment for any condition.

30 Fascinating Saw-wort Facts

  1. Scientific Name: The Saw-wort is scientifically known as Serratula tinctoria.

  2. Habitat: This perennial plant is commonly found in meadows, grasslands, and open woodlands.

  3. Flowering Season: Saw-wort typically blooms from June to September, displaying vibrant flowers.

  4. Appearance: It has a tall, slender stem with alternate leaves and distinctive saw-like edges.

  5. Height: Saw-wort can reach heights of up to 3 feet (1 meter).

  6. Wildflower: It is considered a wildflower, contributing to the biodiversity of natural ecosystems.

  7. Geographic Distribution: Saw-wort is native to Europe and Asia and has been introduced to North America.

  8. Traditional Uses: Historically, the plant was used for dyeing fabrics due to its yellow pigment.

  9. Ecological Role: Saw-wort attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies, supporting local ecosystems.

  10. Adaptability: It is known for its adaptability to various soil types and growing conditions.

  11. Edible Parts: Some parts of the plant are edible, and historically, the young leaves were consumed.

  12. Cultural Significance: Saw-wort has been mentioned in folklore and herbal medicine traditions.

  13. Herbal Remedies: In traditional medicine, Saw-wort was used for various ailments, including digestive issues.

  14. Conservation Status: Depending on the region, the conservation status of Saw-wort may vary.

  15. Root System: Saw-wort develops a robust rhizomatous root system.

  16. Growth Habit: It has a clump-forming growth habit, creating visually appealing groupings in the wild.

  17. Seed Production: Saw-wort reproduces both by seed and vegetatively through its rhizomes.

  18. Invasive Potential: In some areas, Saw-wort has been identified as invasive, outcompeting native vegetation.

  19. Natural Enemies: Certain insects and herbivores may feed on Saw-wort, helping to control its population.

  20. Seed Dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by wind or by attaching to the fur or feathers of animals.

  21. Soil Preferences: Saw-wort often thrives in well-drained soils but can tolerate a range of soil conditions.

  22. Conservation Efforts: In regions where Saw-wort is at risk, conservation efforts may involve habitat restoration.

  23. Gardening: Some gardeners cultivate Saw-wort for its ornamental value in perennial gardens.

  24. Chemical Constituents: The plant contains various chemical compounds, contributing to its medicinal properties.

  25. Aromatic Qualities: When crushed, Saw-wort leaves may release a mild, herbal fragrance.

  26. Traditional Dyes: Beyond medicinal and culinary uses, the plant was historically valued for its dyeing properties.

  27. Seedbank Viability: Seeds of Saw-wort can remain viable in the soil for several years.

  28. Pollen Production: The flowers of Saw-wort produce pollen, supporting the reproductive cycle.

  29. Companion Planting: Some gardeners use Saw-wort as a companion plant to deter certain pests.

  30. Aesthetics in Landscaping: Due to its distinctive appearance, Saw-wort is occasionally incorporated into landscaping projects for visual interest.


Saw-wort filmed at Waitby Greenriggs Nature Reserve in Cumbria on the 27th August 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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