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Carthamus tinctorius

Common names: American saffron, dyers' saffron, false saffron

Safflower is an annual plant native to the Mediterranean countries and cultivated in Europe and the US. Its glabrous, branching stem grows from 1 to 3 feet high and bears alternate, sessile, oblong or ovate-lanceolate leaves armed with small, spiny teeth. The orange-yellow flowers grow in flower heads about 1 to 1 1/2 inches across.

Safflower is derived from same orchid as saffron. Where saffron is the stamen of the orchid, safflower is the petals. Sometimes ground safflower will be sold as saffron by unscrupulous or misinformed mechants. It is much inferior in intensity of flavour and colouring properties to saffron, but also cheaper.

Safflower can be used as a fabric dye, producing a range of subtle shades from yellow to pink.

Safflower oil, in modern times, is sometimes used as a replacement to linseed oil when grinding white pigments because it does not yellow as much as linseed oil over time.