Cornflower

©Les Binns

Cornflower

©Philip Precey

Cornflower

Scientific name: Centaurea cyanus
Once considered a weed of cornfields, the Cornflower was nearly wiped out by intensive agricultural practices. Today, it can be found in deliberately seeded areas, and on roadside verges and waste ground.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 80cm

Conservation status

Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

June to August

About

Once considered a weed of arable fields, the development of intensive agricultural practices nearly wiped out the Cornflower in the wild. This delicate, blue flower is now most likely to occur as a garden escapee, as part of intentional wildflower seeding, or as the result of the disturbance of soil containing old seed banks. Its strongholds remain roadside verges, scrub, waste ground and farmland. It flowers from June to August, often alongside other 'arable weeds' (also called 'cornfield flowers') such as Corn Chamomile and Corncockle.

How to identify

Like all members of the daisy family, the bright blue flowers of the Cornflower are actually composite heads of small flowers. In the Cornflower, the outer florets are star-like, and smaller, more purplish flowers are found in the middle. Stems and leaves are long and pointy, with hairy, blackish buds at the tips.

Distribution

Widespread, but scarce.

Did you know?

One of the best displays of arable weeds in the UK can be seen at a Wildlife Trust nature reserve, College Lake, in Buckinghamshire. Every summer, a riot of colour can be enjoyed as flowers, such as Cornflower and Common Poppy, burst into bloom. Once an old quarry, a cache of topsoil was discovered in the 1980s when the area became a nature reserve, and spread over special plots. Dormant seeds in the soil soon grew to produce a stunning display, which is now lovingly cared for by local conservationists.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.