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The P&PDL Picture of the Week


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Rosie Lerner
Consumer Horticulture Specialist & Master Gardener State Coordinator
Safflower (note the the spines on the bracts on the photo on the left,
the photo on the right shows how the flower is surrounded by many bracts)

The client that submitted this specimen indicated that the plant grew near the base of a bird feeder and they wondered if it sprouted from the birdseed. The flowers were in tightly-clustered heads, bright yellow to almost orange, and the bracts were heavily armed with very sharp spines. What is it?

The plant is safflower (Carthamus tinctorious), a thistle-like, annual, oilseed crop grown out in the Great Plains states such as Nebraska, Montana and the Dakotas. Safflower used to be grown for red and yellow dyes yielded by the flowers. Safflower oil is used in the food and cosmetics industries, the meal is used in livestock and poultry feed, and indeed, the whole seed is marketed as birdseed. You can find more info on safflower in the Alternative Field Crops Manual.

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Last updated: 16 September 2001/tlm.
The Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory at Purdue University.