Herbs & Plants

Centaurea calcitrapa

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Botanical Name : Centaurea calcitrapa
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Centaurea
Species: C. calcitrapa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Common Nams:  Common Star Thistle, Red star-thistle, Purple starthistle

Habitat : Centaurea calcitrapa is native to Europe but is rarely found there, it is known across the globe as an introduced species and often a noxious weed. It grows  on  waysides and waste places on sandy, gravelly and chalky soils.

Centaurea calcitrapa is an annual or Biennial plant growing erect to a maximum height of one  to 1.3 metres.
The stems are hairless and grooved.


It sometimes takes the shape of a mound, and it is finely to densely hairy to spiny. The leaves are dotted with resin glands. The lowermost may reach a length of 20 centimeters and are deeply cut into lobes. The inflorescence contains a few flower heads. Each is 1.5 to 2 centimeters long and oval in general shape. The phyllaries are green or straw-colored and tipped in tough, sharp yellow spines. The head contains many bright purple flowers. The fruit is an achene a few millimeters long which lacks a pappus.

It flowers from July until September, and the seeds ripen from August to October.

The Red Star-thistle has been identified as a Priority Species by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. It is identified as ‘vulnerable’ by the UNIC and is listed as Nationally Rare in the UK Red Data Book. There is no national or Sussex BAP for this species.

Succeeds in ordinary garden soil. Prefers a well-drained fertile soil and a sunny position. Tolerates dry, low fertility and alkaline soils. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Seed – sow April in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. If you have sufficient seed, it can also be sown in situ during August/September.
Edible Uses: Leaves and young stems – raw or cooked.

Medicinal Uses:
Star thistle has had medicinal use, most notably for reducing fevers.  In the 19th century, one botanist noted that Americans were employing the plant for kidney complaints such as nephritis and gravel.  A modern European herbal lists the seeds as a diuretic and suggests a palatable prescription made by crushing them in white wine. It also recommends an infusion of the leaves and flowers for fevers and general debility.  For a more potent remedy, the herbal mentions brewing the leaves with angelica, wormwood, or white willow bark.  The powdered root is said to be a cure for fistula and gravel.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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