A SPECIES OF: Distaff Thistles
ALSO KNOWN AS: Dyer's Saffon and Bastard Saffron
BOTANICAL NAME: Carthamus Tinctorius
SYMBOLISM: Good luck and happiness.
DESCRIPTION: Safflower is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant. Plants are 1-5 feet tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange, or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head.
NAME STORY: John Chadwick (English linguist and classical scholar) reports that the Greek name for safflower κάρθαμος (kārthamos) occurs many times in Linear B tablets, distinguished into two kinds: a white safflower (ka-na-ko re-u-ka, 'knākos leukā'), which is measured, and red (ka-na-ko e-ru-ta-ra, 'knākos eruthrā') which is weighed. The explanation is that there are two parts of the plant which can be used; the pale seeds and the red florets.
INTERESTING FACTS: Safflower is one of humanity's oldest crops. Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the Twelfth Dynasty identified dyes made from safflower, and garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun.
The early Spanish colonies along the Rio Grande in New Mexico used safflower as a substitute for saffron in traditional recipes. An heirloom variety originating in Corrales, New Mexico, called "Corrales Azafran", is still cultivated and used as a saffron substitute in New Mexican cuisine.