Description from Flora of China
Herbs (20-)50-100(-150) cm tall, annual. Stem erect, apically branched; stem and branches white or whitish, smooth, glabrous. Leaves rigid, leathery, glabrous. Lower and middle stem leaves sessile, lanceolate, ovate-lanceolate, or elliptic, simple, 7-15 × 2.5-6 cm, base attenuate and semiamplexicaul, margin spinosely toothed or entire, apex acute; teeth very rarely pinnatipartite, apically with 1-1.5 mm spinules. Upper stem leaves lanceolate, decreasing in size upward, margin spinosely toothed; teeth apically with a ca. 3 mm spine. Capitula few to many, in a corymbose synflorescence, rarely 1. Involucre ovoid, ca. 2.5 cm in diam. Phyllaries in ca. 5 rows; outer phyllaries leaflike, ovate-lanceolate, 2-4 × ca. 1 cm, spiny; middle phyllaries 6-20 × 4-7 mm, constricted between pale parallel-veined basal part and leaflike apical part with green reticulate veins; inner phyllaries oblanceolate-elliptic to oblanceolate, ca. 22 × 5 mm, rigidly scarious, apex attenuate. Corolla red to orange, ca. 2.8 cm. Achene ovoid to ellipsoid, ca. 5.5 mm, 4-angled. Pappus absent. Fl. and fr. May-Aug. 2n = 24*.
The seeds of Carthamus tinctorius yield edible oil, and the florets are used medicinally or for extracting a red pigment used as dye. Because of its long cultivation, the precise origin is uncertain although it is probably SW Asia.
Widely cultivated in China and occasionally naturalized in saline and alkaline soils in dry and cold conditions in Gansu, Guizhou, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jilin, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Xinjiang, Xizang, Zhejiang [native origin unknown; widely cultivated].