1. Centaurea montana L.

    1. This low-growing perennial is widespread across much of central and southern Europe, and although not native to Britain is now naturalised in many parts of the British Isles. Centaurea montana has been grown in English gardens for centuries, and is a useful, if somewhat untidy, addition to a herbaceous border. It was probably introduced to Britain from elsewhere in Europe at some point during the 16th century.

[KSP]
General Description
A low-growing perennial with beautiful, large, blue flowerheads, perennial cornflower is native to central and southern Europe.

This low-growing perennial is widespread across much of central and southern Europe, and although not native to Britain is now naturalised in many parts of the British Isles. Centaurea montana has been grown in English gardens for centuries, and is a useful, if somewhat untidy, addition to a herbaceous border. It was probably introduced to Britain from elsewhere in Europe at some point during the 16th century.

The herbalist John Gerard certainly had it in his garden, and described ‘the great Blew-Bottle’ in his herbal of 1597, although he admitted that ‘the faculties of these floures are not sufficiently known’, implying, perhaps, that he had not grown it for long. In 1790, William Curtis, writing in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, still called this the ‘Greater Blue-Bottle’, a plant that ‘will grow in any soil or situation, some will think too readily’.

Species Profile

Geography and distribution

Native to Europe, from Belgium eastwards to Poland and Serbia, and south to the Spanish Pyrenees; in subalpine meadows and woods. It has become naturalised elsewhere in Europe and in North America.

Description

Overview: A low-growing perennial, with creeping rhizomes (underground stems), forming spreading patches.

Stems and leaves:The stems are up to 60 cm tall and bear lance-shaped, undivided leaves, which are cottony on the underside.

Flowers: The flowerheads are up to about 5 cm across, opening from May to July. They are usually large and blue, with deeply cut florets, but can vary in colour. Cultivars include Centaurea montana ‘Alba’ (with white flowerheads), ‘Carnea’ (with pink flowerheads) and ‘Violetta’ (with mauve flowerheads).

Uses

A bitter tea made from the plant was traditionally used to treat dyspepsia and as a diuretic.

Perennial cornflower is cultivated as an ornamental and is suitable for a herbaceous border, woodland garden or large rock garden.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in Kew's seed bank vault at Wakehurst.

Collections of Centaurea montana seeds are held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank.

See Kew's Seed Information Database for information on Centaurea montana seeds

Cultivation

Perennial cornflower grows well in moist but well-drained soil, in sun or partial shade. It can be propagated by division. Flowerheads are produced in early summer

This species at Kew

Centaurea montana can be seen growing in the Rock Garden at Kew and in The Slips at Wakehurst.

Pressed and dried specimens of Centaureaspecies are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers, by appointment. The details, including images, of some of these can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

Distribution
Belgium, Poland, Spain
Ecology
Subalpine meadows and open woods.
Conservation
Not threatened.
Hazards

None known.

[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, medicinal.

Images

Common Names

English
Perennial cornflower

Centaurea montana L. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Sp. Pl. 2: 911. 1753 [1 May 1753]

Literature

  • [1] The Plant List (2010). Centaurea montana.
  • [2] Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. (2008) Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1.
  • [3] Stace, C. (1997). New Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • [4] Phillips, R. & Rix, M. (1991). Perennials, Volume 2. Pan Books.
  • [5] Schauenberg, P. & Paris, F. (1977). Guide to Medicinal Plants. Lutterworth Press, Guildford & London.
  • [6] Curtis, S. (1790). Centaurea montana. Curtis’s Bot. Mag. 3: tab. 77.
  • [7] Gerard, John (1597). The Second Booke of the Historie of Plants, (commonly called Gerard's Herbal): 251, as 'The great Blew-Bottle'. Studio editions reprint 1994, London.

Sources

International Plant Names Index
The International Plant Names Index (2016). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org
[A] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
[B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
[C]