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(safflower), a genus of annual, biennial, and perennial herbaceous plants of the family Compositae. There are 19 species, most of which are native to the Mediterranean Region. The genus includes one cultivated species, the safflower (C. tinctorius), which is an annual spring plant with a taproot. The solid, branching stem is whitish in color and reaches a height of 100 cm (sometimes greater). The leaves are sessile, elongate-lanceolate, and leathery; the margins are usually spi-nose-toothed. The small, tubular flowers are yellow, orange, orange-red, or—rarely—white; they are gathered into heads measuring up to 4 cm across. A safflower plant has 15 to 60 heads with involucres. The plant is cross-pollinated, mainly by bees. A head contains 25 to 60 white, ribbed achenes. One thousand achenes weigh 25–50 g. The safflower is extremely drought resistant, tolerates low temperatures fairly well, and grows well in various types of soil.
Safflower seeds contain up to 60 percent oil; the oil content of the fruits is 30–37 percent. Safflower oil is used for culinary and industrial purposes. The petals yield red and yellow dyes, which are used for coloring fabrics and food.
The safflower, which is native to Ethiopia and Afghanistan, was known in ancient Egypt and was cultivated in India, China, and other countries before the Common Era. The plant has been raised in what is now the European USSR since the 18th century. In the 20th century the safflower has been cultivated in small areas of Spain, Portugal, Australia, Hungary, France, India, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, China, the USA, and Brazil. The crop occupies the greatest areas in India. In the USSR the variety Miliutin 114 is sown in Uzbekistan in the spring or toward winter. Sowing is in wide rows (60–70 cm apart), at a rate of 5–10 kg of seed per hectare (ha). Care of the plants includes thinning of shoots and cultivating between rows. The plants are harvested with grain-harvester combines when the seeds are fully mature. The yield is 6–8 quintals per ha. Pests include the safflower fly and safflower weevil; diseases include broomrape infestation, fusarium wilt, sclerotiniose, and rust.
REFERENCESMinkevich, I. A., and V. E. Borkovskii. Maslichnye kul’tury, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1955.
Zhukovskii, P. M. Kul’turnye rasteniia i ikh sorodichi, 3rd ed. Leningrad, 1971.