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Carthamus tinctorius

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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, Salsify, Saw-wort, 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:
150 centimetres tall
Fields, wasteland.

Yellow, many petals
Spherical, bright orange, yellow or red flowers, 2 or 3cm wide. Flowers are thistle-like.
The fruit is an achene (seed). Fruits are brown, shiny and angular, up to 9mm long. The seeds mature in September and October. 15 to 20 seeds per flowerhead.
An annual or biennial plant which is in leaf from May to October. The leaves are alternate, toothed and spiny.
Other Names:
American Saffron, Bastard Saffron, Dyer's Saffron, Fake Saffron, False Saffron, Rouge Plant, Safflower Oil Plant, Saffron Thistle.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Carthamus tinctorius, also known as safflower, is an herbaceous annual plant that is native to North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean region. It is most commonly cultivated for its oil-rich seeds, which are used in cooking, cosmetics, and as a source of industrial oil. It also has a long history of use as a natural dye and in traditional medicine. The plant can grow up to 150cm tall and has prickly stems and leaves. The flowers are usually yellow, orange or red, and are often used for ornamental purposes. Safflower is also known for its drought tolerance and can be grown in dry regions.


Safflower: The Versatile Flower with a Rich History

Safflower, also known as Carthamus tinctorius, is a plant that belongs to the family Asteraceae. It is a hardy, drought-tolerant annual plant that is native to the arid regions of North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. Despite its rugged nature, Safflower has a long history of use in many cultures and is prized for its beauty, versatility, and the various products that can be derived from it.

The use of Safflower can be traced back to ancient times. In ancient Egypt, it was used for cosmetics, dyes, and even as a remedy for various ailments. The ancient Persians used it to make yellow and red dyes for textiles, and the ancient Greeks used it to make a perfumed oil. In medieval times, Safflower was also used as a medicine, and its dried petals were used to make a yellow dye that was used to color cloth.

Today, Safflower is mainly cultivated for its oil, which is used in a variety of products, including cooking oils, margarine, and salad dressings. The oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and is a good source of Vitamin E, making it a healthy alternative to other cooking oils. Safflower oil is also used in cosmetics and skincare products as a moisturizer, and it has been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

In addition to its oil, Safflower is also used for its beautiful red and yellow flowers, which are often used in cut flower arrangements and dried flower arrangements. The dried petals of Safflower can also be used to make a yellow dye for cloth, just as they were used in ancient times.

Safflower is a hardy plant that is easy to grow and is often used as a cover crop. It can be planted in a variety of soil types, and it can grow in both warm and cold climates. Safflower is also a popular crop for farmers because it is resistant to pests and diseases and requires very little maintenance.

Safflower is a versatile plant with a rich history. From its use as a cosmetic, remedy, and dye in ancient times, to its use as a healthy cooking oil and a beautiful flower today, Safflower continues to be an important plant in many cultures. Whether you are a farmer looking for a hardy crop, a florist looking for a beautiful flower, or a health-conscious consumer looking for a healthy cooking oil, Safflower is definitely worth considering.

Safflower is a plant that has many health benefits and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The seeds of the plant contain high levels of linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid that is important for maintaining good health. In addition to its high content of linoleic acid, Safflower oil is also rich in antioxidants, making it a great ingredient in skincare and cosmetic products.

One of the most well-known health benefits of Safflower is its ability to lower cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that consuming Safflower oil can help to reduce total cholesterol levels and triglycerides, making it an effective way to improve cardiovascular health.

Safflower oil is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce the symptoms of conditions such as arthritis, eczema, and psoriasis. Additionally, the antioxidants in Safflower oil are thought to help to protect the skin against damage from free radicals, which can lead to premature aging.

Safflower is also used as a natural remedy for various other health conditions. For example, it is believed to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, making it a popular ingredient in topical pain-relieving creams and ointments. The plant is also used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a range of conditions, including digestive problems, respiratory infections, and menstrual cramps.

In addition to its health benefits, Safflower is also a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The seeds of the plant are a good source of protein, and they contain high levels of B vitamins, including thiamine and niacin. Safflower also contains minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, which are important for maintaining good health.

Safflower is also used in the production of biofuels. With the increasing demand for sustainable and renewable energy sources, Safflower is becoming an increasingly popular crop for biofuel production. The oil from Safflower seeds can be converted into biodiesel, which is a clean-burning alternative to traditional diesel fuel. Biodiesel made from Safflower oil has a high energy content and is biodegradable, making it an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based diesel fuel.

In addition to being used for biofuels, Safflower is also used in the production of animal feed. The seeds of the plant are a rich source of protein and other nutrients, making them a popular ingredient in animal feed. Safflower seeds are also used to feed chickens and other poultry, as they are high in linoleic acid, which is important for the growth and health of these birds.

Safflower is also an important crop for farmers, as it is easy to grow and requires very little maintenance. It is a hardy plant that is resistant to pests and diseases, and it can be grown in a variety of soil types. In addition, Safflower is a drought-tolerant crop, which makes it well-suited to regions with limited water resources.

In conclusion, Safflower is a versatile plant that has many uses, both for health and industry. Whether you are looking for a healthy cooking oil, a natural remedy, a source of animal feed, or a sustainable alternative to traditional diesel fuel, Safflower has something to offer.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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