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Star thistle

From Academic Kids

Star thistle

Bumblebee on Star Thistle
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Magnoliopsida
Order:Asterales
Family:Asteraceae
Genus:Centaurea
Species

around 500

The star thistles, cornflowers and knapweeds are a group of thistle-like plants in the genus Centaurea of the family Asteraceae. Some 350 species of herbaceous flowering plants belong to Centaurea, most native to the Old World. Some species are cultivated as ornamental plants in gardens.

Yellow star thistle.
Enlarge
Yellow star thistle.

Species in this genus include:

  • Centaurea nigraBlack knapweed or Common knapweed
  • Centaurea scabiosaGreater knapweed
  • Centaurea cyanusCornflower
  • Centaurea calcitrapa L. – The Purple star thistle or Caltrop is a native of Europe. The Caltrop has spiny, pink-purple flower heads. It can be annual or biennial and has been naturalized in America. The common name "Caltrop" comes from the resemblance of the spiny flower head to the caltrop, an ancient instrument of war.
  • Centaurea iberica Sprengle – A spiny Mediterranean species thought to be the "thistle" mentioned in Genesis
  • Centaurea solstitialis L. – The Yellow star thistle, shown in the picture at left, is an annual that grows to a height of 1 to 2.5 feet. This plant is widely naturalized outside of Europe where it is native.
  • Centaurea repens L. – Russian knapweed (also Turkestan thistle) is a perennial, native to southern Russia and Asia Minor to Altai and Afghanistan. It is a pernicious weed within parts of its native range as well as in places where it has been accidentally naturalized. The flower head is lilac in color and not armed with spines.
  • Centaurea maculosa Lam. – Spotted knapweed introduced from Eastern Europe to the USA, now a pernicious and invasive weed which releases a toxin that reduces growth of forage species.
  • Centaurea diffusaDiffuse knapweed

Centaurea are copious nectar producers, especially on high-lime soils, and are major honey plants for beekeepers. Star thistle varietal honey is light and slightly tangy. It is one of the finest honeys produced in the US, but as it is abundant, some of it is fraudulently relabeled and sold as the scarce, expensive sourwood honey of the Appalachian Mountains.

The high nectar yield of the genus makes it very attractive to other insects such as butterflies and day-flying moths such as Six-spot Burnet. The larvae of some other Lepidoptera species such as The Engrailed and Hummingbird hawk moth use this as a food plant.

Bibliography

  • Mabberley, D.J. 1987. The Plant Book. A portable dictionary of the higher plants. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 706 p. ISBN 0 521 34060 8.
  • Robbins, W.W., M. K. Bellue, and W. S. Ball. 1970. Weeds of California. State of California, Dept. of Agriculture. 547 p.da:Knopurt (Centaurea)

de:Flockenblumen es:Centaurea fr:Centaurea lt:Bajorė nl:Centaurie pl:Chaber

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