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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Cornflower is an annual plant that flowers between May and August. The seed usually germinates the following spring but it can remain viable for many years. This explains why in the later years of the twentieth century it made unexpected reappearances along road-building projects, triggered into germinating by the disturbance of the earth. In another location, College Lake Nature Reserve at Pitstone in Buckinghamshire, the warden discovered soil dating from the 1930s and before the age of herbicide. He spread it over a field at the edge of the reserve and the dormant seeds of cornflower, corncockle Agrostemma githago and pheasant's eye Adonis annua all germinated.
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Description

The attractive flowers of the cornflower are a bright celebratory blue, distinctive enough to have given its name to a colour. The narrow grey-green leaves, no more than five millimetres wide, grow alternatively up the stem. The closed, emerging flower heads resemble other members of the knapweed family to which the cornflower is closely related. In the early years of the twentieth century, cornflowers were common in Britain and, together with red poppies and white-flowering Mayweed, must have made a patriotic sight across parts of the countryside.
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Comprehensive Description

Miscellaneous Details

"Notes: Western Ghats, Cultivated, Native of North Temperate Region"
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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"Maharashtra: Pune Tamil Nadu: Dindigul, Nilgiri"
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Range

Although it has declined in north-western Europe, the cornflower is not considered a threatened species in Europe as a whole, and its stronghold is in the Mediterranean countries. However, in Britain there is now only one persistent and self-sustaining population, in Suffolk, although there are recent records from arable fields in Wiltshire, Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire. There are scattered plants throughout southern England and Wales although it is thought that most of these may originate from wildflower seed mixtures and do not last for many years.
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Native of the Mediterranean region and Europe, widely cultivated elsewhere and a weed.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Annuals, 20–100 cm. Stems usually 1, erect, ± openly branched distally, loosely tomentose. Leaves ± loosely gray-tomentose; basal leaf blades linear-lanceolate, 3–10 cm, margins entire or with remote linear lobes, apices acute; cauline linear, usually not much smaller except among heads, usually entire. Heads radiant, in open, rounded or ± flat-topped cymiform arrays, pedunculate. Involucres campanulate, 12–16 mm. Phyllaries: bodies green, ovate (outer) to oblong (inner), tomentose or becoming glabrous, margins and erect appendages white to dark brown or black, scarious, fringed with slender teeth ± 1 mm. Florets 25–35; corollas blue (white to purple), those of sterile florets raylike, enlarged, 20–25 mm, those of fertile florets 10–15 mm. Cypselae stramineous or pale blue, 4–5 mm, finely hairy; pappi of many unequal stiff bristles, 2–4 mm. 2n = 24 (Russia).
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Elevation Range

3700 m
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Diagnostic Description

Diagnostic

Habit: Herb
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Synonym

Leucacantha cyanus (Linnaeus) Nieuwland & Lunell
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Type Information

Isotype for Centaurea cyanus var. denudata Suksd.
Catalog Number: US 1438026
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): W. N. Suksdorf
Year Collected: 1920
Locality: Bingen., Klickitat, Washington, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Suksdorf, W. N. 1927. Werdenda. 1: 43.
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Ecology

Habitat

Cornflower is a plant of arable fields and sandy loam soil. It was often found growing in association with corn marigold Chrysanthemum segetum.
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Associations

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Acanthiophilus helianthi feeds within capitulum of Centaurea cyanus

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / parasite
sporangium of Bremia lactucae parasitises live Centaurea cyanus
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Chaetostomella cylindrica feeds within capitulum of Centaurea cyanus

Foodplant / parasite
Golovinomyces cichoracearum parasitises live Centaurea cyanus

Plant / resting place / within
puparium of Ophiomyia curvipalpis may be found in stem of Centaurea cyanus

Foodplant / parasite
amphigenous telium of Puccinia cyani parasitises live leaf of Centaurea cyanus

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Trupanea stellata feeds within capitulum of Centaurea cyanus
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / gall
larva of Urophora quadrifasciata causes gall of capitulum of Centaurea cyanus

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Centaurea cyanus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Centaurea cyanus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 12
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Status

Classified as Endangered in the UK, and protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended) in England and Wales.
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Threats

Along with many other farmland plants, cornflower has suffered through the increasing industrialisation of agriculture. The use of pesticides and fertilisers, destruction of field edges, conversion to improved pasture and development of competitive crop varieties have resulted in the decline or loss of many of our so-called arable weed species.
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Management

Conservation

The cornflower is listed under the UK Biodiversity Action Plans and included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. It is also part of Plantlife's 'Back from the Brink' project. The most urgent tasks to preserve this plant are to maintain its current range and manage viable populations on all the present sites. Seed has been collected and stored at the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, part of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This seed may be used for ex-situ propagation and a reintroduction programme if this becomes necessary. It is also important that the cornflower's plight is publicised, along with many other farmland plants in danger of disappearing through intensive agricultural practise. These other plants include interrupted brome, Deptford pink and purple ramping fumitory.
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Wikipedia

Centaurea cyanus

"Cornflower" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Cornflour. For the fictional anthropomorphic mouse, see Cornflower (Redwall).

Centaurea cyanus, commonly known as cornflower, bachelor's button, bluebottle, boutonniere flower, hurtsickle or cyani flower, is an annual flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to Europe. "Cornflower" is also used for chicory, and a few other Centaurea species; to distinguish C. cyanus from these it is sometimes called common cornflower. It may also be referred to as basketflower, though the term also refers to the Plectocephalus group of Centaurea, which is probably a distinct genus.

It is an annual plant growing to 16-35 inches tall, with grey-green branched stems. The leaves are lanceolate, 1–4 cm long. The flowers are most commonly an intense blue colour, produced in flowerheads (capitula) 1.5–3 cm diameter, with a ring of a few large, spreading ray florets surrounding a central cluster of disc florets. The blue pigment is protocyanin, which in roses is red.[1]

In the past it often grew as a weed in crop fields, hence its name (fields growing grains such as wheat, barley, rye, or oats are known as corn fields in the UK). It is now endangered in its native habitat by agricultural intensification, particularly over-use of herbicides, destroying its habitat; in the United Kingdom it has declined from 264 sites to just 3 sites in the last 50 years.[2] In reaction to this, the conservation charity Plantlife named it as one of 101 species it would actively work to bring 'Back from the Brink'.[3] It is also, however, through introduction as an ornamental plant in gardens and a seed contaminant in crop seeds, now naturalised in many other parts of the world, including North America and parts of Australia.

Cultivation[edit]

Cornflower Blue.jpg
Dried Cornflower as used in herbal tea & tea blends

It is grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, where several cultivars have been selected with varying pastel colours, including pink and purple. Centaurea is also grown for the cutflower industry in Canada for use by florists. The most common colour variety for this use is a doubled blue variety such as 'Blue Boy' or 'Blue Diadem'. White, pink, lavender and black (actually a very dark maroon) are also used but less commonly. It is also occasionally used as a culinary ornament. Cornflowers have been used and prized historically for their blue pigment. Cornflowers are often used as an ingredient in some tea blends and herbal teas,[4] and is famous in the Lady Grey blend of Twinings. Wild cornflower floral water is produced in Provence, France. It is obtained by steam distillation which can be used as a natural mild astringent and antiseptic to prevent eye infections as well as an alcohol-free natural toner. A relative, Centaurea montana, is a perennial plant which is also cultivated as a garden plant. Cornflowers germinate quickly after planting.

Light requirements: full sun. Water requirements: high-average water daily. Soil pH requirements: neutral (6.6-7.5) to mildly alkaline (7.6-7.8).

It flowers from June until August.[5]

The cornflower is considered a beneficial weed, and its edible flower can be used to add colour to salads.

Folklore and symbolism[edit]

Bachelor's button, Basket flower, Boutonniere flower, Cornflower - 3.jpg
Flowering shoot of Cornflower. I. Disk-floret in vertical section.

In folklore, cornflowers were worn by young men in love; if the flower faded too quickly, it was taken as a sign that the man's love was not returned.[6]

In herbalism, a decoction of cornflower is effective in treating conjunctivitis, and as a wash for tired eyes.[7]

The blue cornflower has been the national flower of Estonia since 1968 and symbolizes daily bread to Estonians. It is also the symbol of the Estonian political party, People's Union, the Finnish political party, National Coalition Party, and the Swedish political party, Liberal People's Party, and has since the dawn of the 20th century been a symbol for social liberalism there.[citation needed] It is the official flower of the Swedish province of Östergötland and the school flower of Winchester College and also of Dulwich College where it is said to have been the favourite flower of the founder, Edward Alleyn.

The blue cornflower was one of the national symbols of Germany.[8] This is partly due to the story that when Queen Louise of Prussia was fleeing Berlin and pursued by Napoleon's forces, she hid her children in a field of cornflowers and kept them quiet by weaving wreaths for them from the flowers. The flower thus became identified with Prussia, not least because it was the same color as the Prussian military uniform.[9] After the unification of Germany in 1871, it went on to became a symbol of the country as a whole. For this reason, in Austria the blue cornflower is a political symbol for pan-German and rightist ideas.[10][11] Members of the Freedom Party wore it at the opening of the Austrian parliament in 2006.[12]

It was also the favourite flower of Louise's son Kaiser Wilhelm I.[13] Because of its ties to royalty, authors such as Theodor Fontane have used it symbolically, often sarcastically, to comment on the social and political climate of the time.[citation needed]

The cornflower is also often seen as an inspiration for the German Romantic symbol of the Blue Flower.[citation needed]

Due to its traditional association with Germany, the cornflower has been made the official symbol of the annual German-American Steuben Parade.

In France the Bleuet de France is the symbol of the 11th November 1918 armistice and, as such, a common symbol for veterans (especially the now defunct poilus of World War I), similar to the Remembrance poppies worn in the United Kingdom and in Canada.[14]

The cornflower is also the symbol for motor neurone disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.[15]

Cornflowers are sometimes worn by Old Harrovians.

Trivia[edit]

It was the favorite flower of John F. Kennedy and was worn by his son, John F. Kennedy, Jr. at his wedding in tribute to his father.[16]

Cornflowers were also used in the funeral wreath made for Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

In paintings[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shiono M, Matsugaki N, Takeda K (2005). "Structure of the blue cornflower pigment". Nature 436 (7052): 791. doi:10.1038/436791a. PMID 16094358. 
  2. ^ "Action plan for Centaurea cyanus". Ukbap.org.uk. Retrieved 2009-11-05. 
  3. ^ Gopher Systems Ltd, Pewsey, Wiltshire, UK - Web Design & Development in Southern England. "Plantlife website". Plantlife.org.uk. Retrieved 2009-11-05. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ Rose, Francis (1981). The Wild Flower Key. Frederick Warne & Co. pp. 386–387. ISBN 0-7232-2419-6. 
  6. ^ Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies (Century, 1987), p.126
  7. ^ Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies (Century, 1987), p. 127
  8. ^ Marcel Cleene; Marie Claire Lejeune (2002). Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe: Herbs. Man & Culture. "The Cornflower was once the floral emblem of Germany (hence the German common name Kaiserblume)." 
  9. ^ Reid, Marilyn (2007). Mythical Flower Stories. Lulu.com. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-84753-521-4. 
  10. ^ Whiteside, Andrew G. (1993). "Pan-Germanism: Anti-Semitism in Mass-Style Politics". Current Research on Anti-Semitism: Hostages of Modernization 3/2 (de Gruyter). p. 691. 
  11. ^ Unowsky, Daniel L. (2005). The Pomp and Politics of Patriotism: Imperial Celebrations in Habsburg Austria, 1848–1916. Purdue University Press. p. 157. 
  12. ^ "Anklänge an illegale NSDAPler". ORF.at. 30 October 2006. 
  13. ^ Coulter, Lynn (2009). Gardening with Heirloom Seeds: Tried-and-True Flowers, Fruits, and Vegetables for a New Generation. ReadHowYouWant.com, Limited. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-4587-2217-1. 
  14. ^ "Le Bleuet de France - Page d'accueil". Bleuetdefrance.fr. Retrieved 2009-11-05. 
  15. ^ "The Cornflower - an ALS symbol". Als.ca. 2004-05-31. Retrieved 2009-11-05. 
  16. ^ http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20142438,00.html
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Notes

Comments

Centaurea cyanus is a commonly cultivated garden ornamental. Its cypselae are often included in wildflower seed mixes and it naturalizes readily in many areas.
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