Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus

Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus

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Some time ago it was usual to admire all the shades of blue in a field of wheat, condensed in only one flower: the cornflower. Its petals of a particular blue, lively, delicate made it appear of a unique splendor. Even his white or pinkish corolla showed a variegated palette, from bright blue to indigo blue, interspersed with silver veins. It is a compound flower or inflorescence: the petals with a jagged outline contain other purple flowers inside. Nature, with its palette of colors, wanted to compose a variegated set of equally distributed colors. Unfortunately, today in our crops it seems hopelessly disappeared. Today selective herbicides have destined for the extinction of this "flower of the harvest".
Depending on the region it has taken on various names: bluet, fior campese, eyes of heaven, ambretta, biavettina, muneghetta.
Its scientific name is centaurea. His name has etymological origins from the myth that tells of the healing of Chiton, a centaur of mythology, cured of a cornflower wrap.
There are various species: the most common is the Centaurea cyanus (common cornflower),
the Centaurea montana (typical of the Alps, grows over 1900 meters of altitude),
the Centaurea macrocephala (also called "big-headed cornflower"),
the Centaurea moschata (commonly called "ambretta").
In foreign languages ​​it is called exactly:
- in French fleur de lis or bluet
- in Spanish, azulejo, aciano, aldina
- in German Kornblume
- in English cornflower.
Many anecdotes are told around this delicate flower. It is said that at the time of Napoleon, William I, king of Germany, was forced to flee: he found himself in a cornfield. While waiting to return to his country, he saw his mother weaving bunches of cornflower, to reassure the children who were with her. Returning to the throne he placed the cornflower in the heraldic frieze.
Flower language: due to the delicacy of its colors it was taken as a symbol of sweetness.

Cornflower seeds

On the market it is difficult to find plants already ready. Generally we proceed with sowing in early spring or, in more temperate areas, already in autumn.
At specialized retailers you will find the seeds of the classic Centaurea Cyanus blue, but it is not difficult to find mixed sachets from which we can also obtain light pink, fuchsia or white flower heads. In nurseries, moreover, mixtures are increasingly found for “natural” lawns: they are usually composed of poppy seeds, cornflower and field daisies. The pre-sieved paper strips are also very practical: they should be placed at home and covered with a thin layer of soil. In a few days germination will take place: the result will be an extremely colorful corner.

Ground and cornflower display

The cornflower is very adaptable: it grows in practically all soils, even if it prefers the alkaline ones, quite poor, well drained and with a good percentage of calcium. It grows very well even among the gravel, for example in a rock garden.
We choose a position in full sun or at most shaded only a few hours, in the late afternoon: we will thus have more abundant growth and flowering. We will also avoid the onset of one of the few adversities that afflict the cornflower: oidium.

How to sow cornflower

The centaurea can be sown in autumn or spring. The first option is widely preferable throughout our peninsula (with the exception of areas above 800 meters of altitude or on poorly draining soils).
The plants that have already been grown in the spring will have an earlier and more abundant flowering.
It is advisable to proceed in mid-September: in the open ground rows of 40 cm (or 20 for the dwarf varieties) are created and the seeds are placed at a depth of about 1.5 cm, with a broad spread. It is covered with light soil and always remains moist. Germination will take place over two weeks. At that point proceed with the thinning, leaving about 20 cm between one plant and another (15 for the dwarfs).
Sowing in pots or in alveolar trays is not recommended as the cornflower does not tolerate transplanting. If we want to move a seedling it is good to proceed immediately after germination and then leave it as undisturbed as possible.

How to grow cornflower in pots

The cultivation of cornflower in pot is not different from that in the open ground. We generally recommend containers at least 30-40 cm deep and a draining substrate: the ideal is the soil, made with a special mix between ground of limestone and sand in equal parts.

Cornflower cultivation

Once germination has taken place, the plants will be almost autonomous. In full earth the irrigations are superfluous, if not to the South. Even the fertilizations are not necessary and, indeed, they can limit the blooms.
Very useful is to intervene often with the cleaning of the withered flower heads, without ever letting them go to seed: in this way we will prolong the production.
For higher varieties it is very useful to set up supports, especially if they grow in an open and windy area. For this purpose the branched branches of the hazels are traditionally used: they combine beauty and practicality.

Cornflower variety

Various mixtures are available in online English catalogs. They are interesting for the wide range of colors and for the different sizes that make these plants suitable also for the first lines in mixed borders.
Baby series in pink, white and blue. High up to 30 cm
Florence series red, pink and white, compact and enlarged.
Standard Tall Group blue, pink, mauve, reddish. More than a meter high, perfect as cut flowers.
Polka Dot dwarfs and mixed colors, 15 cm high.

Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus: Phytotherapy with cornflower

Cornflower is a plant widely used in phytotherapy thanks to the abundance of active ingredients, present above all in its flower heads. We report in particular flavonoids, anthocyanins, acetylenic and phenolic compounds.
The various types of extracts are useful as expectorants, laxatives, sedatives, antioxidants and antirheumatics.
Here's how to get some of these preparations.
It is commonly used to relieve eye irritation or conjunctivitis. It is advisable to warm it slightly and moisten some cotton pads to leave on closed eyelids for at least 15 minutes.
It is obtained by simmering 40 grams of fresh flower heads for about 5 minutes.
Very useful also for irritation of the skin and mucous membranes in general. Diluted it becomes an excellent tonic and helps to combat couperose.
Precious for people who suffer from water retention, as well as being an excellent digestive, in combination with other herbs. It is also recommended for respiratory diseases.
It is obtained by infusing a tablespoon of dried petals (or two fresh) for about 5 minutes: drink the hot infusion.
Use of other parts
Herbal medicines are dried and powdered. They are then used to cure light constipations. However, we ask a professional for advice first.