Red Valerian

Centranthus ruber (L.) DC. ssp. ruber

Family: - Valerianaceae


Centranthus is from the Greek kentron meaning a sharp point or spur and anthos meaning flower refers to the spurred flowers on some species.

Ruber means red and refers to the red flowers.

Red Valerian because it has red flowers and is in the Valerianaceae family.

Other Names:

Kiss Me Quick


Red Valerian is a hairless, perennial, round bush to 0.7 m tall with showy clusters of small, pink to red (occasionally white) flowers from October to March or in July on erect stems. Each flower is narrowly tubular with 5 unequal spreading lobes, a basal spur and only 1 stamen. One of the petal lobes is slightly larger and somewhat separated from the remaining 4 which are arranged like a fan. The fruit is nut-like and topped by a feathery crown. The leaves are opposite, grey-green, egg-shaped to elliptic, 2-12 cm long and 4-50 mm wide, with a pointed tip and usually entire.

Native to south east Europe, it is now a weed of disturbed areas and granite outcrops.






Stipules - None.

Petiole - None on upper leaves and short on lower leaves.

Blade - Grey green, egg shaped to oblong with a pointed tip, thick, somewhat fleshy, smooth, may be slightly toothed. Upper leaves tend to be toothed and are have no stalk. Lower leaves tend to have smooth edges and a petiole


Erect, 100-1000 mm tall, hollow, smooth, waxy bloom. Smooth. Hairless.

Flower head:

Dense 3 branched corymb lengthening into an oblong terminal panicle. Flowers on stiff, upright stalks.


Red, pink or white and tubular with 5 lobes or petals. 4 petals face in one direction and the other in the opposite direction

Ovary - Inferior, joined to the receptacle, 3 celled and one cell has a pendulous seed. Thread like style.

Calyx - Limbs spreads after flowering, into a feathery bell shaped pappus.

Petals - Red to pink, tubular, funnel shaped with 5, irregular, spreading lobes. Spur longer than the ovary.

Stamens - 3, attached to corolla tube

Anthers -


Small, dry, 1 seeded with a persistent calyx the spreads out after flowering into a bell shaped, feathery pappus. Seed retained in the fruit which blows in the wind aided by the fluffy pappus.


Embryo straight.

Fluffy pappus.


Fleshy taproots.

Key Characters:

Calyx limb rolled inward during flowering.

Corolla tube spurred.

Stamens 1.

From J.M. Black.


Life cycle:

Perennial. Dies back to basal leaves when stressed by summer drought. Roots and bas of plant becomes woody ad clumpy with age.


It has drought tolerant fleshy taproots.


By seed. Pollinated by the Lepidoptera which have a long proboscis to probe the tubular flower.

Flowering times:

October to April in SA.

October to March or July in WA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:




Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed.

Origin and History:

Mediterranean. South east Europe.



Naturalised throughout Britain.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium



Temperate. Mediterranean.


Most abundant on granite derived soils.

Grows on old walls and dry banks.

Plant Associations:





Weed of firebreaks, granite outcrops and disturbed areas.

Garden escapee.


Not recorded as toxic.



Management and Control:

Removed flowering heads before they set seed to prevent it escaping from gardens.

Based on other species in Valerianaceae it probably tolerates 2,2-DPA, atrazine, aziprotryne, chlorpropham, diclofop, diuron when established, linuron, nitrofen, oryzalin, pendimethalin, simazine, terbacil when established and trifluralin.

And is probably partially tolerant to chloroxuron, chlorpropham, paraquat, prometryn, propyzamide and terbacil.

166 found the highest rates of uptake were confined to the period when the leaves expanded most rapidly in Centranthus ruber.


Eradication strategies:

Manual removal is effective for small areas providing the roots are also removed with a fork. Plants will reshoot from the base if they are broken off. Seedlings can be easily hand pulled. Regular mowing, cultivation or grazing over a number of years provides reasonable control.

Blanket wipers or wick applicators using 1 part glyphosate(450g/L) to 2 parts water can provide partially selective control. Spot spraying with 50 mL glyphosate(450g/L) in 10 L water provides good control. Logran® at 40 g/ha (1 g per 10 L water for hand sprays) gives reasonably selective control in bushland. Lontrel®750 at 500 g/ha (10 g per 10 L water for hand spraying) is more selective but only controls young plants reliably.

Residual herbicides or repeated applications may be needed to control following germinations.

Wind rarely takes seed more than 100 metres from the parent plant.

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Pretty Betsy (Centranthus macrosiphon) has toothed leaves and a smaller corolla spur up to 1.5 mm long (4-8 mm long in Red Valerian) and a shorter fruit crown at 3 mm long (5-8 mm long in Red Valerian).

Common Valerian (Centranthus officinalis) has pale lilac flowers and toothed leaves. This species is used as a relaxant.

Plants of similar appearance:


Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P801. Diagram.

Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P228.

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #281.2.


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