The genus Centaurea Linnaeus
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
Centaurea is a genus of about 350 to
500 species of
herbaceous thistles and thistle-like
flowering plants in the family
The genus is mostly native to
Mediterranean Europe and North Africa,
i.e. chiefly centered in the Mediterranean region.
72 species can be found in the USA, several of them introduced.
The genus includes a wide variety of
perennial, some used as garden plants,
such as Centaurea cyanus and Centaurea americana.
The genus Centaurea, long recognized as a
has traditionally been considered to be
a complicated taxon.
On the basis of morphology,
DNA sequence analysis, some botanists
have defines informal groups in the genus but without precise delimitation
In Greek κενταυριν
(kentaurin) means Knapweed the standard common name of many
As for the name
it is likely coming from
(kentauros) that means centaur.
One of the famous centaur was Chiron, known for his exceptional goodness and
wisdom and for his knowledge of medicinal plants. He raised Asclepius, a god of
healing and taught him medicine which Asclepius went on to perfect.
Since some species of the Centaurea genus have been used as
medicinal herbs, the genus
name might come from the association of Chiron, centaur, to Centaurea.
For an other origin of the name, some sources say that Chiron
used the flower of some Centaurea species
to heal wounds, including his own, after battle.
Some of the vernacular names of
name for many species of the genus are: Knapweed, Thistle, Thornless
Thistle, Star Thistle, Cornflower and Bluet,
while the common vernacular French name is Centaurée.
The genus Centaurea or species of this genus have been known under other
names, i.e. under the genera names
Acosta, Grossheimia, Jacea or Leucacantha.
Centaurea are copious nectar
producers, especially on high-lime soils,
and are major honey plants for beekeepers. This varietal honey is light and
slightly tangy. It is one of the finest honeys produced in the US.
The high nectar yield of the genus makes it very attractive to insects such as
butterflies and day-flying moths.
The larvae of some other Lepidoptera
species use Centaurea species as food plants.
The introduced species are among the most
of non-indigenous plants
that have colonized western North America over the last century.
Several species have invaded millions of hectares of western United States
and Canadian grasslands.
The Centaurea of Québec
In Québec one can find the following nine species:
and the two following hybrids:
- Centaurea cyanus
- Centaurea diffusa
- Centaurea jacea
- Centaurea macrocephala
- Centaurea montana
- Centaurea nigra
- Centaurea nigrescens
- Centaurea scabiosa
Centaurea stoebe subsp. micranthos
formerly usually known as Centaurea maculosa.
- Centaurea x moncktonii
- Centaurea x psammogena