Carthamus lanatus L. - Woolly safflower.

Taxonomic position.

Family: Asteraceae Dumort.; genus: Carthamus L.

Morphology and biology.

Plant is an annual or biennial plant up to 1 m tall. The whole plant is woolly, especially in the upper part. Stem is straight and hard, with divaricated branching closer to the top. Leaves are glandular-viscous. Root leaves are quite rigid, pinnately parted; stem ones are leathery, almost amplexicaul, oval or oblong, pinnately parted with spiky denticles and distinctly visible veins. Inflorescences are solitary anthodia, terminal and on lateral branches, up to 3.5-4 cm long and 2-2.5 cm in diameter. Outer leaflets of the involucel are phylloid, with spiky denticles, oval-lanceolate, equal in length to the flowers or slightly longer. Inner leaflets of the involucel are scarious, lanceolate, whole or pectinate-dentate from the middle, spiculate on the top, always shorter than the flowers. Flowers are yellow. Achenes are tetrahedral-oval, whitish or yellowish, almost glossy, sometimes wrinkly from above, up to 5 mm long. Palea of the pappus: outer ones are very short, whitish, emarginate; middle ones are 2-2.5 times longer than the achene, reddish, acuminate, with tiny serrate denticles along the margin; inner ones are shortened or sometimes equal to the middle ones, whitish in color. Plant blossoms in July-August. Entomophilous. Zoochore.


General distribution: south of Central Europe, Mediterranean region, Iran, the Balkans and Asia Minor. In the former USSR: European part (Moldova, Black Sea Coast, Crimea and Lower Don) and the whole Caucasus, except high altitudes.


In pastures, arable lands and fields, it is a typical weed.

Utilization and economic value.

The closest relative of bastard saffron (C. tinctorius), commonly used in India and other countries for food (seed) and feed (cake is fed to livestock, seed to poultry, green matter for silage), as well as to produce oil (seed), green manure (cake is the main fertilizer for sugarcane in India) and dye (flowers are used to prepare red and yellow natural dyes), in cookery and food industry (substitute for saffron; seeds contain chymosine) and as a source of vitamins (flowers contain vitamin E and carotene). It is utilized in breeding practice to improve varieties of bastard saffron.

Reference citations:

Bobrov, E.G. & S.K. Cherepanov, ed. 1963. Flora USSR. V. 28. Moscow-Leningrad: Publishing House of Acad. Science. 583-584 pp. (In Russian)
Cherepanov S.K. 1995. Plantae Vasculares Rossicae et Civitatum Collimitanearum (in limics USSR olim)[List of Vascular Plants of Russia]. St. Petersburg: Mir I Semia. 990 pp. (In Russian)
Wulf V.V., Maleeva O.F. 1969. The World Resources of the Useful Plants. Leningrad: Nauka. 427-428 pp. (In Russian)

© Smekalova T.N.


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