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Safflower is grown primarily as an agricultural crop in the western half of the United States and other parts of the world. The flowerheads are a source of red and yellow dyes for clothing and food (now largely replaced by synthetic dyes), while vegetable oil is derived from its seeds. Safflower oil is high in oleic and linoleic fatty acids, and it is used as a source for cooking oil, salad oil, industrial oil, biodiesel fuel, margarine, soap, cosmetics, oil-based paints, and varnishes. Roasted or fried hulled seeds are edible to humans, while unhulled raw seeds are used as a source of food for birds. Young foliage and meal from processed seeds are edible to livestock (e.g., cattle & sheep). The primary advantage of Safflower over other agricultural crops is its ability to adapt to hot dry climates. Because of the spines on its foliage and floral bracts, Safflower resembles thistles (Cirsium spp., Carduus spp.), but the corollas of its flowerheads are yellow to red, rather than pink or purple. Unlike thistles, the achenes of Safflower lack tufts of hair at their apices, except for some uncommon cultivars that have achenes with short bristles. In addition, the widely spreading and spiny floral bracts of Safflower have a distinctive appearance.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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