Open the Advanced Search

Common Centaury

Centaurium erythraea

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Gentianaceae (Gentian)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
25 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fields, gardens, grassland, meadows, roadsides, rocky places, sand dunes, seaside, wasteland, woodland.

Pink, 5 petals
The flowers of Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) are small and star-shaped, with a delicate, captivating pink hue. Each flower typically consists of five petals, forming a dainty bloom that clusters together to create an attractive inflorescence. These flowers commonly blossom from June to September, adding a subtle yet enchanting touch to the landscapes where they grow.
The fruit of Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) consists of small, rounded capsules that hold numerous tiny seeds. These capsules develop after the flowering period, and upon maturity, they split open, releasing the seeds for propagation. The seeds are relatively small and play a significant role in the plant's natural spread and reproduction.
Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) bears lance-shaped leaves that are typically arranged in opposite pairs along the stems. The leaves are smooth-edged and possess a vibrant green colouration. They often appear sessile (lacking a stalk) and have a pointed tip, contributing to the plant's overall elegance. These leaves play a role in the photosynthetic process and are alternately arranged along the stems.
Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) does not have a distinct or pronounced fragrance. Its flowers, though visually captivating with their delicate pink hue, typically lack a strong or identifiable scent. The plant is primarily appreciated for its visual beauty and medicinal properties rather than for any significant fragrance.
Other Names:
Bitter Herb, Common Centuary, European Centaury, Feverwort, Minor Centaury.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Centaurium erythraea, also known as common centaury or common centuary, is a species of flowering plant in the gentian family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and has been introduced to other parts of the world as a weed. The plant is known for its small, pink or white flowers and narrow leaves. It grows well in a variety of habitats, including fields, gardens, and waste areas. Centaurium erythraea is a herbaceous plant that can grow up to 60 cm in height. It is commonly found in disturbed areas and is considered an invasive weed in some areas. The plant is used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.


Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) is a flowering plant species that belongs to the gentian family. It is a small, annual or biennial plant that is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is commonly known by its common names, such as centaury, centuary, red centaury, and European centaury.

The plant is characterized by its delicate, pink or red flowers that bloom in summer. The flowers are arranged in clusters on the end of tall, slender stems and are about 10-20mm in diameter. The leaves of the Common Centaury are lance-shaped and green, and grow in an alternate pattern along the stem.

The Common Centaury is a hardy plant that grows well in a variety of soils and can tolerate both drought and damp conditions. It prefers well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter, and it can grow in full sun or light shade. The plant is relatively low maintenance, and requires minimal care once established.

The Common Centaury has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It is believed to have a soothing effect on the digestive system and is commonly used to treat digestive problems such as indigestion, bloating, and heartburn. It is also used to stimulate the appetite and to promote healthy liver function. In addition, the plant is believed to have diuretic properties, which can help to flush toxins from the body.

The Common Centaury is a popular ornamental plant, and its delicate pink or red flowers make it a charming addition to any garden. It is an ideal plant for rock gardens, borders, or wildflower gardens, and it can be grown in pots or containers. The plant is also popular as a cut flower, and its delicate blooms can be used to brighten up any room.

In conclusion, the Common Centaury is a hardy, low-maintenance plant that is easy to grow and care for. It is a versatile plant that can be used in a variety of ways, from a medicinal herb to an ornamental plant.

In addition to its ornamental and medicinal uses, the Common Centaury also has some interesting folklore and cultural significance. For example, in some cultures, the plant was believed to have the ability to ward off evil spirits and protect against magic. In other cultures, it was believed to have the power to heal wounds and stop bleeding.

In traditional folklore, the Common Centaury was often associated with centaurs, mythical creatures that were half-man and half-horse. The plant was said to have sprung from the blood of Chiron, a famous centaur who was a skilled healer. This association gave the plant its scientific name, Centaurium erythraea, which means "red centaur."

Despite its long history of use and cultural significance, the Common Centaury is a relatively unknown plant today. However, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in the plant, and it is once again being appreciated for its beauty and versatility. If you are looking for a plant that is both charming and useful, the Common Centaury is definitely worth considering.

In terms of cultivation, the Common Centaury is easy to grow from seed, and it will self-seed in the garden if allowed. It is also possible to propagate the plant through division or cuttings. When growing the plant, it is important to ensure that the soil is well-drained and that the plant receives adequate light and water.

In summary, the Common Centaury is a versatile, low-maintenance plant that is easy to grow and care for. Its delicate pink or red flowers, cultural significance, and medicinal properties make it a valuable addition to any garden. Whether you are looking for a plant to brighten up your garden, to use for its medicinal properties, or simply to enjoy its cultural significance, the Common Centaury is an excellent choice.

Facts About Common Centaury

Here are 30 interesting facts about Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea):

  1. Botanical Name: Centaurium erythraea, commonly known as Common Centaury, is a flowering plant belonging to the Gentian family (Gentianaceae).
  2. Distribution: It's native to Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa, thriving in meadows, grasslands, and open woodland habitats.
  3. Appearance: Common Centaury typically grows up to 30-50 cm in height with clusters of small, star-shaped pink flowers.
  4. Blooming Period: The plant usually flowers from June to September.
  5. Medicinal Use: Common Centaury has a long history in herbal medicine, often used to stimulate digestion and improve appetite.
  6. Bitter Taste: The plant contains bitter compounds, and its extracts are used as a digestive tonic due to their bitter taste.
  7. Traditional Herbal Remedy: It's often used in traditional medicine as a tonic to support liver function.
  8. Astringent Properties: Common Centaury possesses astringent properties and is used in remedies for diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.
  9. Natural Habitat: It thrives in neutral to alkaline soils in sunny locations.
  10. Biodiversity: The plant attracts various pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and other insects due to its nectar-rich flowers.
  11. Adaptability: Common Centaury can thrive in disturbed or abandoned habitats.
  12. Ethnobotanical Uses: Historically, it has been used as an ingredient in herbal teas, tonics, and remedies for various ailments.
  13. Folklore: In some cultures, Common Centaury has been associated with folklore and used in rituals or considered a symbol of healing.
  14. Edible Plant: The leaves are sometimes used in salads, as they have a slightly bitter taste.
  15. Annual or Perennial: It's typically an annual plant but can behave as a short-lived perennial in certain conditions.
  16. Conservation: In some regions, it is considered a threatened species due to habitat loss.
  17. Genus Centaurium: The genus name 'Centaurium' is derived from the mythological centaur Chiron, known for his healing abilities.
  18. Chemical Composition: The plant contains various compounds like glycosides, flavonoids, and alkaloids.
  19. Culinary Uses: In some regions, the plant is utilized to add a bitter taste to certain alcoholic beverages.
  20. Natural Dye: Historically, the plant has been used as a natural dye for fabrics.
  21. Growing Conditions: Common Centaury prefers well-draining soil and can tolerate dry conditions.
  22. Herbal Tonic: Its bitter components stimulate the production of digestive juices in the stomach.
  23. Potential Side Effects: Overconsumption can lead to digestive discomfort due to its bitter principles.
  24. Herbal Combinations: It's sometimes used in herbal formulations in combination with other digestive aids or tonics.
  25. Propagation: Common Centaury can be propagated from seeds and can self-seed prolifically in suitable conditions.
  26. Fertility: The plant's seeds are small and numerous, aiding its natural spread and proliferation.
  27. Symbolism: In some cultures, the plant is associated with qualities like purity and healing.
  28. Herbal Teas: Leaves and flowers are occasionally used in herbal teas to support digestive health.
  29. Traditional Medicine Practices: It has been used historically to treat anemia, fever, and other conditions.
  30. Conservation Efforts: Due to habitat loss, efforts are made to protect and preserve the natural habitats where Common Centaury grows.

Please note that while Common Centaury has traditional uses in herbal medicine, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional before using any plant for medicinal purposes.


Common Centaury filmed at Sandscale Haws in Cumbria on the 8th July 2023.


Please remember to Like and Subscribe to the WildFlowerWeb YouTube channel at

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map