Safflower, a commercially important annual herb native to Asia. Safflower is a thistlelike plant that can grow to a height of about three feet (90 cm). The broadly oval leaves are smooth, waxy, and spiny-toothed. Small individual orange, yellow, and, sometimes, red or white flowers grow in clusters called flower heads. The plant bears from one to five of these flower heads, and each head is composed of 15 to 150 individual flowers. Each flower is able to produce one seed, the size of a grain of rice.

Safflower leaves are used as a salad vegetable. Safflower oil, a polyunsaturated oil obtained from the seed, is widely used as a salad and cooking oil, and in making margarine. It is also used in paints, varnishes, and soaps. Dyes obtained from the flowers are used for coloring fabrics and cosmetics. Safflower is grown in dry areas of Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. The main producers of safflower seed are India, the United States, and Mexico.

Safflower is Carthamus tinctorius of the composite family, Compositae.

The safflowerThe safflower has broad, spiny-toothed leaves and small flowers that grow in clusters.