Saffron Thistle
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Saffron Thistle
aturalized Photo: Gurcharan Singh
Common name: Saffron Thistle, distaff thistle, downy safflower, smooth distaff thistle, woolly distaff thistle, woolly safflower, woolly star thistle
Botanical name: Carthamus lanatus    Family: Asteraceae (Sunflower family)
Synonyms: Carthamus albus, Centaurea lanata, Atractylis lutea

Saffron Thistle is an annual thistle-like plant, 1-6 ft tall, with densely glandular-hairy, loosely cobwebby to woolly leaves. It is closely related to Safflower. Stems are rigidly erect, openly branched distally, stramineous. Leaves arise from the base and also on the stem. Basal leaves are often absent at maturity. Leaf-stalks are winged, blades 10-15 cm, margins pinnately 1-2-divided into linear or lanceshaped spine-tipped lobes. Stem leaves are spreading or recurved, lanceshaped to ovate, rigid, stem-clasping, 3-7-veined from base, margins with narrow spine-tipped lobes, spinose-acuminate. Flower-heads are yellow, with tubular yellow, sometimes red- or black-veined, flowers 2.5-3.5 cm long, with throats gradually expanded. Anthers are yellow. Seeds are 4-6 mm long, about 3 mm wide, hairless, 4-angled, apex with linear scales to 1 cm long. Saffron Thistle is found in parts of Europe, West Asia and Africa, widely naturalized. In India it is found naturalized in Kashmir.

Identification credit: Gurcharan Singh
Photographed in Baramulla, Kashmir.
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