- Name also: Whitewash Cornflower
- Latin synonym: Centaurea dealbata
- Family: Daisy Family – Compositae, subfamily Carduoideae
(formerly Aster Family – Asteraceae)
- Growing form: Perennial herb. Subterranean runners.
- Height: 60–100 cm (25–40 in.).
- Flower: Flowers 3–5 cm (1.2–2 in.) wide, single flower-like capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitulum’s ray-florets rose–bluish red, obliquely funnel-shaped, lobed at tip, neuter; disk florets red, tubular. Stamens 5. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Involucre spherical, involucral bracts overlap in many rows, with elliptic, yellow-brown appendage. Capitula solitary, terminating stem and branches.
- Leaves: Alternate, lower stalked, upper usually stalkless. Blade pinnately lobed, underside light, tomentose, lobes wide, apex acute.
- Fruit: Elliptic, flattish achene with very short bristles on tip.
- Habitat: Ornamental, sometimes wild.
- Flowering time: July–September.
The Daisy family is clearly the largest family in the plant kingdom with around 25,000 species. If a distinction is made between the Daisy and Dandelion families, the former still retains the number 1 slot with 22,000 species, while the Orchid family, with 20,000 species, isn’t far behind. The tropical plant kingdom is still so badly known, however that the numbers could even be thousands of species out. Daisies are clearly more common in Finland than orchids, with regards to both the number of species and how abundantly they grow. Species that are native to Finland have been joined by others that have been brought by people or arrived in some other fashion. Of the genus Centaurea’s approximately 500 species, a dozen grow in Finland. Most likely none of these are native to Finland, but have rather arrived with cultivation or transportation, and some have escaped into the wild from flower beds.
Persian cornflower is sometimes grown in Finland as an ornamental plant, and it occasionally escapes. It is native to the Caucasus and north-east Turkey, where it grows on mountain meadows and stony slopes. It is typical for the species’ leaves to have whitish tomentose undersides. The most commonly grown cultivar in Finland is probably the ‘Steenbergii’, which has purple flowers. Handsomely flowered cornflowers are especially favoured by bees, but they also attract butterflies. Persian cornflower can be sown in gardens by seed and it spreads quite well. It doesn’t spread far, however, because unlike dandelion its achene’s sparsely down-haired border doesn’t function as a parachute.