Locally known as ‘Matches’ because they look like red-headed match sticks, this flower is better known overseas as safflower, and has been used in cooking and as a herb for centuries. It is the source of safflower oil, which is very good for you as it is high in Vitamin E.
Flowers look very much like yellow/orange thistles. Each stem ends in a roughly circular ray of 6 or more flowers. Each flower is round and fluffy-looking when open and is orange in colour with yellow flecks. Stems have many spiky, thistle-like leaves, particularly at the base of each flower. Newer varieties have been bred that are thankfully less spiky.
Safflower is grown as a field crop. Most are grown in Victoria, NSW, and QLD.
What to look for
- Buy when the flowers are starting to open and are brightly coloured;
- Buds do not open in the vase;
- Avoid bunches with yellow leaves.
- Keep cool at all times.
- Strip leaves from the lower half of each stem and wash stem ends thoroughly.
- Leaves turn yellow and rot before flowers wilt, so strip as many leaves off as possible.
- Recut at least 2 cm off each stem and place in water immediately.
- Always use a preservative as this will help keep open flowers looking fresh.
- Replace vase water with fresh preservative every day.
Interesting Facts about this Flower
Safflower contains the dye cartharmin, and is used as a substitute for saffron. The botanical genus name Carthamus comes from the Arabic verb ‘kurthum’ meaning “dye”. The plant is also widely cultivated for its edible oil, which is extracted from the seeds.
Botanical Name: Carthamus tinctorius
Common Names: Matches, safflower
Stem Length: 30 to 60 cm
Country of Origin: Mediterranean
Available Colours: Orange, Yellow
Season: Summer, Spring
Availability: January, February, November, Decemeber