Thursday 11 February 2016


"A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love." - Max Müller

Centaurea cyanus (commonly known as cornflower, bachelor’s button, bluebottle, boutonniere flower, hurtsickle or cyani flower), is an annual flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to Europe. The name “cornflower” is also used for chicory, and a few other Centaurea species; to distinguish C. cyanus from these it is sometimes called common cornflower.

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 because of the specific chemical environment of the rose petals.

In the past this flower often grew as a weed in cornfields (in the broad sense of the word “corn”, referring to grains, such as wheat, barley, rye, or oats), hence its name. 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. In reaction to this, the conservation charity Plantlife named it as one of 101 species it would actively work to bring ‘Back from the Brink’. 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.

Several cultivars have been selected to grow as an ornamental plant in gardens with varying pastel colours, including white, pink and purple. Centaurea is also grown for the cut flower industry in Canada for use by florists. The most common colour 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 some tea blends and herbal teas, and are famous in the Lady Grey blend of Twinings tea. A relative, Centaurea montana, is a perennial plant which is also cultivated as a garden plant. Cornflowers germinate quickly after planting in full sun. It flowers all summer. The cornflower is considered a beneficial weed, and its edible flower can be used to add colour to salads.

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 not returned. In traditional Western herbalism, a decoction of cornflower is used 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. The blue cornflower was also one of the national symbols of Germany, while in Austria the blue cornflower is a political symbol for pan-German and rightist ideas.

In France the "Bleuet de France" 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 Remembrance poppies worn in the United Kingdom, Australia and in Canada. The cornflower is also the symbol for motor neurone disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The cornflower is also often seen as an inspiration for the German Romantic symbol of the “Blue Flower”. A Blue Flower (German: Blaue Blume) is a central symbol of inspiration. It stands for desire, love, and the metaphysical striving for the infinite and unreachable. It symbolises hope and the beauty of things. The blue flower also symbolises the joining of human with nature and the spirit, so that a complete understanding of nature and the human’s place in it is reached.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,

and also part of the Blue Monday meme.


  1. Hi Nicholas,

    Oh, the cornflowers are so lovely! Thanks for sharing.

    Have a Happy Blue Monday!

  2. Lovely color and lovely flowers!...Christine

  3. Gorgeous photo! Such an amazing shade of blue.

    Happy Blue Monday! And have a wonderful week.
    ~ Joy @ joysweb

  4. Beautiful and interesting history of them. I have not seen those in Texas,

  5. A terrific share, beautiful blue, a very interesting history and just big smiles when I saw your post.Thank you and enjoy a great week!