Safflower

Carthamus tinctorius L.

Family: Asteraceae.

Names:

Carthamus is from the medieval Latin name qartum or the Arabic name for Safflower and refers to the dyes extracted from the flowers of some species.
Tinctorius refers to the tinctures or pigments that can be extracted from this plant.
Safflower

Summary:

A tall, erect, branched, annual crop plant with yellow to red flowers and pyramid shaped seed. The leaves are hairless and usually simple and may have small spines.

Description:

Cotyledons:

Two. Large, club shaped sometimes with slightly undulating edges. Tip rounded. Sides convex. Base tapered. Surface hairless. Petiole shorter than the blade.

Leaves:

Alternate.
Stipules -
Petiole - Short.
Blade - Egg shaped to oval. Occasionally divided. Edges wavy, smooth or with small spines. Tip pointed. Surface hairless.

Stems:

1000 mm tall. Erect and branched. Hairless.

Flower head:

30-50 mm diameter, egg shaped. Single at the ends of stems. Surrounded by leafy bracts.

Flowers:

Bracts - Several rows of oblong to oval, smooth edged bracts.
Ovary -
Florets - Tubular. Yellow to reddish.
Stamens -
Anthers -

Fruit:

Achene.

Seeds:

Pyramid to tear shaped, 8 mm long x 4 mm wide. White. Surface smooth, shiny, ridged and hairless. Occasionally with a set of short narrow scales on top.

Roots:

Taproot.

Key Characters:

Yellow flowers, leafy bracts surrounding flowers.

Biology:

Life cycle:

Annual, winter crop. Flowers in spring.

Physiology:

Reproduction:

By seed.

Flowering times:

Spring.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

None.

Hybrids:

Allelopathy:

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Usually associated with the crop being grown in the locality.

Origin and History:

Western Asia.

Distribution:

NSW, VIC.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Habitats:

Climate:

Temperate.

Soil:

Plant Associations:

Significance:

Beneficial:

Cultivated for its oil bearing seeds.
Gums extracted.
Residues after oil extraction used as a protein rich animal feed.
Formerly cultivated for the extraction of red and yellow pigments.

Detrimental:

Weed of roadsides and following crops.

Toxicity:

Not recorded as toxic.

Legislation:

None.

Management and Control:

Thresholds:

Eradication strategies:

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Unlikely to be developed because of it crop potential.

Related plants:

Glaucous Star Thistle (Carthamus leucocaulos or C. glaucus)
Saffron Thistle (Carthamus lanatus)
Toothed Thistle (Carthamus dentatus).

Plants of similar appearance:

Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) and Sheep and Slender Thistles (Carduus species) like most other thistles have pink or purple flowers.
Saffron Thistle (Carthamus lanatus) has divided leaves and lighter yellow flowers.
St Barnaby's Thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) and Maltese Cockspur (Centaurea melitensis)have yellow flowers but the heads are much smaller and rounder than Safflower.
Golden Thistle (Scolymus hispanicus)has flat seeds.
Spotted Thistle (Scolymus maculatus) also has yellow flowers but only occurs in NSW and QLD.
Toothed Thistle (Carthamus dentatus) has pink/purple flowers and only occurs in central NSW and Vic.
Glaucous Star Thistle (Carthamus leucocaulos or glaucus) has purplish flowers and is rare in VIC, SA and WA.

References:

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P721. Photo.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #260.3.

Moerkerk. M.R. and Barnett. A.G. (1998) More Crop Weeds (R.G. and F.J. Richardson, Victoria). P53.

Acknowledgments:

Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information for more information.