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Carthamus L.

Asteraceae (Cynareae tribe)

  Carthamus tinctorius: stem  
Alternate trade names


Common names

safflower, false saffron

Species cultivated

Carthamus tinctorius L.


West Asia.

Brief characterization

Lanceolate or ovate, simple, entire, auriculate stem leaves; flowers (florets) in terminal, discoid heads 2.5-4 cm across, solitary or in a loose corymbose inflorescence; head subtended by an ovoid involucre, very constricted at apex, of imbricate phyllaries in many series; outer phyllaries leaf like, spreading, inner phyllaries with leaflike appendages, to innermost ones spine-tipped; receptacle bristly; disc floret ca. 3.5 cm long with a very narrow tube, 5 spreading, linear lobes, and an unbranched style; pappus lacking.

Cultivar and/or species variation

Stem leaves minutely spine-toothed, or spineless in newer cultivars; heads yellow, orange, red, or cream, sometimes bicolor, with style in contrasting color.

May be confused with


Countries exporting

Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe.

Carthamus tinctorius: heads

Carthamus tinctorius: head showing involucre

Carthamus tinctorius: disc florets with receptacle bristles (left), disc floret (right)

Carthamus tinctorius: leaves

Carthamus tinctorius 'Kinko'
Photo: © K. Sahin, Zaden B.V.

Carthamus tinctorius 'Zanzibar'
Photo: © K. Sahin, Zaden B.V.