As part of a gardening update huge clumps of yellow basket flower (Centaurea macrocephala) were going to be thrown out so I asked for a plant. I dug it a large deep hole and watered heavily and thoroughly. I’d obtained the plant when it was in full bloom in the middle of the summer two of the worst things when it comes to transplanting. But the yellow basket flower plant lived and has bloomed very beautifully now for three summers.
Yellow basket flower has been in cultivation outside of its native mountains of the Caucasus since at least a few years before 1810 in England. Translating from Ludwig von Willdenow’s 1803 botanical Latin description, the yellow basket flower is described by John Sims on page 1248 in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Volume 31 (1810) thus,
“Stem erect, simple, somewhat hispid, thickly clothed with lanceolate entire leaves, of which the lower ones are decurrent and a little toothed, the upper ones smaller, less decurrent, and quite entire, very rough on the upper surface. Calyx solitary, terminal, globose, very large: scales, at the lower part, smooth, green, oblong-ovate, the upper lax part orbicular, scariose, rust-coloured, irregularly fringed. Flower solitary, yellow, floscular without radius. Filaments hispid: anthers, in our specimen, so firmly adhering together, that the style, unable to perforate them, is frequently turned to one side. Pappus of the germen simple, purple-tipped.”
It is also noted in “Curtis’s Botanical Magazine” that yellow basket flower had been in cultivation in one English garden belonging to Messrs. Loddiges for several years and that the species comes from countries south of Mount Caucasus.
Yellow basket flower can be easily propagated by ripe seeds collected in late summer or early fall and sown where the plants are to grow. Plants can be divided but this is risky as they do not like root disturbance. The best time for division is when the plant is dormant and not actively growing either early spring or late fall. The mature height is between three and four, rarely five, feet so this is a plant for the back of the garden. A clump-forming plant, yellow basket flower makes a good specimen planting. The leaves are long near the base of the plant becoming smaller further up, undulating with mostly entire edges, and rough textured and covered in long and short hairs. Flowers are yellow and borne individually at the top of the plant. The bracts enclosing the flower heads are composed of slightly overlapping brown to reddish-brown, fringed scales. Flowering time is from July to August.
Centaurea– healing plant
The genus name Centaurea is from the Greek word “kentauros” (centaur) and is probably a reference to the knowledge of medicinal plants of the mythical centaur Chiron (Kheiron, meaning “hand” and a probable root word of “kheirourgos” or “surgery”). Many species of Centaurea have been used in traditional folk medicines. The genus Centaurea has been investigated for possible anti-inflammatory compounds (Talhouk et al. 2008, Khan et al. 2011).
References cited or consulted
Blackie, J. S. (1866). Homer and the Iliad, Vol. IV, Notes Philological and Archaelogical. Published 1866 by Edmonton and Douglas, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Centaurea in Flora of North America.
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine or, Flower-Garden Displayed: in which The most Ornamental Foreign Plants, cultivated in the Open Ground, the Green-House, and the Stove, are accurately represented in their natural Colours. Vol. 31 (1810).
Hosoki, T. and Kimura, D. (1997). Micropropagation of Centaurea macrocephala Pushk. ex Willd. by Shot-axis Splitting. Horticulture Science 32(6):1124-1125.
Khan, A. N., Fatima, I, Khaliq, U. A., Malik, A., Miana, G. A., Qureshi, Z., and Rasheed, H. (2011). Potent Anti-Platelet Constituents from Centaurea iberica. Molecules 16:2053-2064
Reznicek, A. A., Voss, E. G., Walter, B. S. (2011). MICHIGAN FLORA ONLINE. University of Michigan.
Talhouk, R. S., El-Jouni, W., Baalbaki, R., Gali-Muhtasib, H., Kogan, J., and Talhouk, S. N. (2008). Anti-inflammatory bio-activities in water extract of Centaurea ainetensis. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 2(2):24-33.