Centaurea montana L.

First published in Sp. Pl.: 911 (1753)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Europe. It is a perennial and grows primarily in the temperate biome.


Kew Species Profiles

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.


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).


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


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 Centaurea species 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.

Belgium, Poland, Spain
Subalpine meadows and open woods.
Not threatened.

None known.


Extinction risk predictions for the world's flowering plants to support their conservation (2024). Bachman, S.P., Brown, M.J.M., Leão, T.C.C., Lughadha, E.N., Walker, B.E. https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nph.19592

Predicted extinction risk: not threatened. Confidence: confident


Ornamental, medicinal.

Common Names

Perennial cornflower


  • Angiosperm Extinction Risk Predictions v1

    • Angiosperm Threat Predictions
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0