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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 19, 20 and 21 | Asteraceae

23. Carthamus Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 830. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 361. 1754.

Distaff thistle [Arabic qartam, safflower]

David J. Keil

Annuals or perennials, 30–180 cm. herbage glabrous to ± glandular and/or ± tomentose. Stems usually erect, branched distally or throughout, (leafy). Leaves basal and cauline or all cauline; basal and proximal cauline winged-petiolate, distal cauline sessile, sometimes clasping; blade margins dentate to pinnately lobed, ± spiny, faces glabrous or ± glandlar and/or ± tomentose. Heads discoid, borne singly or in few-headed cymiform arrays. Involucres ovoid, constricted distally. Phyllaries many in 4–5 series. linear to ovate (at least outer ± leaflike), bases appressed, apical appendages more herbaceous, prominently veiny, spiny-dentate or -lobed, spine. tipped. Receptacles convex to conic, epaleate, bearing subulate scales. Florets 15–60+. corollas yellow to red or ± purple, tubes very slender, throats gradually or abruptly expanded, ± cylindric or short-campanulate, lobes linear; anther bases short-tailed, apical appendages oblong; style branches: fused portions with slightly swollen basal nodes minutely hairy, distally minutely papillate, distinct portions very short. Cypselae oblong to obpyramidal, ± 4-angled, apices with smooth or dentate rims, faces usually ± roughened (outer) or smooth (inner), glabrous, attachment scar. lateral; pappi 0 or (usually only inner cypselae) ± persistent, of many, usually unequal, narrow scales overlapping in several series. x = 10, 12.

Species 14 (4 in the flora): introduced; United States; Mediterranean region.


Ashri, A. and P. F. Knowles. 1959. Further notes on Carthamus in California. Leafl. W. Bot. 9: 5–8. Ashri, A. and P. F. Knowles. 1960. Cytogenetics of safflower (Carthamus L.) species and their hybrids. Agron. J. 52: 11–17. Hanelt, P. 1963. Monographisch Übersicht der Gattung Carthamus L. (Compositae). Feddes Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 67: 41–180. Hanelt, P. 1976. Carthamus. In: T. G. Tutin et al., eds. 1964–1980. Flora Europaea. 5 vols. Cambridge. Vol. 4, pp. 302–303. Khidir, M. O. and P. F. Knowles. 1970. Cytogenetic studies of Carthamus species (Compositae) with 32 pairs of chromosomes. I. Intrasectional hybridization. Amer. J. Bot. 57: 123–129. Khidir, M. O. and P. F. Knowles. 1970b. Cytogenetic studies of Carthamus species (Compositae) with 32 pairs of chromosomes. II. Intersectional hybridization. Canad. J. Genet. Cytol. 12: 90–99.

1 Corollas pink or pale purple; cauline leaves ± deeply lobed   1 Carthamus leucocaulos
+ Corollas yellow to red; cauline leaves toothed to deeply lobed   (2)
2 (1) Cauline leaves toothed, otherwise undivided, weakly spiny; corollas yellow to red; cypselae white   4 Carthamus tinctorius
+ Cauline leaves ± divided, very spiny; corollas yellow; cypselae brown   (3)
3 (2) Anthers yellow, pollen yellow; corollas bright yellow; outer phyllaries usually not more than 1.5 times as long as inner; herbage ± cobwebby; stems stramineous.   2 Carthamus lanatus
+ Anthers white with purple lines, pollen white; corollas pale yellow; outer phyl-laries usually 2 times as long as inner; herbage ± sparsely hairy; stems white or stramineous   3 Carthamus creticus

Lower Taxa


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