Definitions

cornflower

cornflower

[kawrn-flou-er]
cornflower, common herb (Centaurea cyanus) of the family Asteraceae (aster family). It is a garden flower in the United States but a weed in the grainfields of Europe. It is called bluebottle or bluet in England and bluebonnet in Scotland; in North America the cornflower shares with other plants the names ragged robin, bachelor's button, or ragged sailor. The long-stemmed blue heads of the flowers, having radiating bottle- or vase-shaped florets, yield a juice which, mixed with alum, has been used as a dye. Cornflowers are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Asterales, family Asteraceae.

Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower, Bachelor's button, Basket flower, Bluebottle, Boutonniere flower, Hurtsickle) is a small annual flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to Europe. (Cornflower is also a common, though incorrect name for chicory)

It is an annual plant growing to 40-90 cm tall, with grey-green branched stems. The leaves are lanceolate, 1-4 cm long. The flowers are most commonly an intense blue colour, produced in flowerheads (capitula) 1.5-3 cm diameter, with a ring of a few large, spreading ray florets surrounding a central cluster of disc florets. The blue pigment is protocyanin, which in roses is red.

In the past it often grew as a weed in crop fields. It is now endangered in its native habitat by agricultural intensification, particularly over-use of herbicides, destroying its habitat; in the United Kingdom it has declined from 264 sites to just 3 sites in the last 50 years. It is also however, through introduction as an ornamental plant in gardens and a seed contaminant in crop seeds, now naturalised in many other parts of the world, including North America and parts of Australia.

Cultivation

It is grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, where several cultivars have been selected with varying pastel colours, including pink and purple.Centaurea is also grown for the cutflower industry in the U.S. for use by florists. The most common color variety for this use is a doubled blue variety such as 'Blue Boy' or 'Blue Diadem'. White, pink, lavender and black (actually a very dark maroon) are also used but less commonly. It is also occasionally used as a culinary ornament. Cornflowers have been used and prized historically for their blue pigment. Cornflowers are often used as an ingredient in tea and is famous in the Lady Grey blend of Twinings. A relative, Centaurea montana is a perennial plant which is also cultivated as a garden plant.

Folklore and symbolism

In folklore, cornflowers were worn by young men in love; if the flower faded too quickly, it was taken as a sign that the man's love was unrequited.

In herbalism a decoction of cornflower is effective in treating conjunctivitis, and as a wash for tired eyes.

The Blue Cornflower has been the national flower of Estonia since 1968 and symbolizes daily bread to Estonians. It is also the symbol of the Estonian political party, Rahvaliit, the Finnish political party, National Coalition Party, and the Swedish political party, Liberal People's Party and has since the dawn of the 20th century been a symbol for liberalism and social liberalism in the nation. The Cornflower is also often seen as an inspiration for the romantic symbol of the Blue Flower.

The Blue Cornflower was the favourite flower of Kaiser Wilhelm I. Because of its ties to royalty, authors such as Theodor Fontane have used it, often sarcastically, to comment the social and political climate of the time.

In Austria it is a political symbol for pan-German and rightist ideas. The Members of the Freedom Party wore it at 2005's Parliament Opening.

In France it is the symbol of the 11th November 1918 armistice and, as such, a common symbol for veterans (especially the now defunct poilus of World War I), similar to the poppies worn in the United Kingdom.

The Crayola company manufactures a color of crayon called Cornflower.

The cornflower is also the symbol for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

References

External links

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