PlantsCarthamus→Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)

Common names:
Give a thumbs up Safflower
Give a thumbs up False Saffron
Give a thumbs up American Saffron
Give a thumbs up Dyer's Saffron

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Herb/Forb
Life cycle: Annual
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Plant Height: 2-3 feet (60-90 cm)
Plant Spread: 12 inches (30 cm)
Leaves: Other: spine tipped
Flowers: Showy
Flower Color: Orange
Flower Time: Summer
Late summer or early fall
Uses: Dye production
Cut Flower
Wildlife Attractant: Bees
Propagation: Seeds: Provide darkness
Depth to plant seed: 0.5 cm / 1/4 inch
Sow in situ
Start indoors


Blame the Bird SeedBlame the Bird Seed
By Chillybean on September 21, 2015

Feeding the birds brings much to our lives. We see and learn from these beauties in a way we wouldn't otherwise. This joy may create some unexpected yard work.

(Full article16 comments)
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Posted by valleylynn (Oregon City, OR - Zone 8b) on Feb 15, 2012 10:15 AM

Very interesting plant, with many commercial uses.
Vegetable oil, coloring and flavoring of food, dye for silk and wool and in medicine.

Good replacement for expensive saffron (Crocus sativus).

Two types of vegetable oil are produced from this plant:
Oleic acid, high in monounsaturated fatty acid.
Linoleic acid, high in polyunsaturated fatty acid.
The one used most for food consumption is the oleic acid form, which is lower in saturates than olive oil.
Linoleic acid is used in painting, instead of linseed oil.

Another interesting fact is that the seeds are used in many bird seed mixes in place of sunflowers, as squirrels don't seem to like the taste of the safflower seeds.

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Posted by Chillybean (Iowa - Zone 5a) on Aug 27, 2015 9:59 AM

This plant is part of a group called "distaff thistle," native to the arid regions of Europe, Asia, and North Africa that receive only seasonal rain. It is these growing conditions that allowed a portion of our bird seed to grow and thrive the summer of 2012.

Spring started like any other, bringing needed rains to the area, but then we went into a drought cycle. It was a hard time for people and animals, but not for this plant. This was a mouthful of seed sown by a ground squirrel in the front yard, so the plants did not get as large as they otherwise could have in a cultivated field. This may have been caused by a lack of fertilizer, and they didn't receive enough sun.

Because it is a type of thistle, it will have the characteristic prickles. Those sharp points kept me from gathering the dried seed later in the year. I just left them in place for the birds.

The safflower has not turned into a weed here, even with the many ground squirrel plantings. Most of the time we are too wet for this to thrive, even if it does germinate.

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Plant Events from our members
chelle On March 24, 2015 Potted up
(1) two-finger paper
chelle From February 28, 2015 to March 11, 2015 Seeds germinated
In ambient room light.
chelle On February 27, 2015 Seeds sown
Room temp
paleohunter On April 7, 2021 Seeds sown
» Post your own event for this plant

Discussion Threads about this plant
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Safflower? by kniphofia Feb 2, 2021 7:00 AM 3
Unknown Plant by LindaTX8 Aug 15, 2019 10:55 PM 1
Unknown Citrus by JypsyDog Apr 27, 2017 1:58 PM 20
Yellow flower, almost thistle-like by threegardeners Jul 30, 2016 1:22 PM 14

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