'Superior Orange' Safflower
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~60
Germination tested 11/2021: 87%
Life cycle: Annual
Safflower is one of the oldest domesticated crops, first appearing in the archaeological record some 4600 years ago in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). It was likely grown for its oil-rich edible seeds (similar to sunflower seeds), but might also have been brought from the wild to the garden as a medicinal or dye plant. Garments dyed with safflower were found in King Tut's tomb. Safflower's orange petals are still often sold as a food coloring and mild flavoring, often masquerading as the far-more-expensive and labor-intensive saffron. In fact, "fake saffron" is sometimes used as a name for this plant.
It has a long tradition of medicinal use too, particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia. A 2018 Iranian study in the journal Electronic Physician notes the following: "Safflower is an indispensable element of Iranian folklore medicine, with a variety of applications due to laxative effects. Also, it was recommended as treatment for rheumatism and paralysis, vitiligo and black spots, psoriasis, mouth ulcers, phlegm humor, poisoning, numb limbs, melancholy humor, and the like. According to the modern pharmacological and clinical examinations, safflower provides promising opportunities for the amelioration of myocardial ischemia, coagulation, thrombosis, inflammation, toxicity, cancer, and so forth. However, there have been some reports on its undesirable effects on male and female fertility. Most of these beneficial therapeutic effects were correlated to hydroxysafflor yellow A."
This variety, which comes to us from Oregon's Wild Garden Seeds, is popular as an ornamental for flower gardens and cut flowers — on account of its showiness and thornlessness — but it can also be used for food, dye, or medicine. We're excited to be adding this important historical plant to our growing oilseed collection.