Safflower, or Bastard-Saffron, Carthamus, L. a genus of exotic plants, comprising ten species, the principal of which is the tinclorius, Common or Dyer's Safflower. It is a native of Egypt, and the warmer climates of Asia; is cultivated to a considerable extent in various parts of Europe, and particularly in the Levant; whence considerable quantities are annually imported into Britain.
The Safflower is propagated by the seed, early in the spring, sowing it separately in drills, at the distance of two feet and a half from each other. In the course of a month, the young plants will appear, and at the expiration of a similar period, it will be necessary to hoe the ground, leaving them six inches apart. A second hoeing will likewise be proper, when the plants should be thinned to the distance at which they are intended to remain. If the soil be stirred a third time, no farther attention will be required, till the flowers appear : the small blossoms, which form the compound flowers, ought to be cut in succession, as they attain to maturity : and then gradually dried in a kiln, of a moderate heat. In order to procure seed for a future crop, some of the plants should be left, till they are perfectly ripe; but Beckmann advises not to choose any of the prickly plants for such purpose; as they will re-produce very small flowers. He farther observes., that the Saf-flower growing in Germany, might be fully equal to that imported from Turkey, if similar pains were taken in drying and preparing the flowers, previously in salt-water, as well as in choosing the proper soil. In the latter respect, agricultural writers are not agreed ; for, in rich land, the plant seldom flowers till late in autumn; while, in a poor dry ground, it is in bloom at an earlier period; but the flowers are smaller, and yield a less portion of colouring matter. On the whole, a moderately dry and well-manured soil, appears to be best adapted to its culture, especially if it be sown early in February; as the young plants are not liable to be injured by the vernal frosts. - The dry leaves of this vegetable are, in the winter, eagerly eaten by sheep and goats.
The flowers and seeds of the bastard saffron were formerly often used medicinally; but, at present, they are nearly exploded, and the former are principally employed for dyeing linen, woollen, silks, and especially cotton, which absorbs the tinging particles more easily, and retains the volatile hue of the safflower much longer, than any other stuff. This plant produces a variety of shades, from a bright-yellow to a deep-red, accordingly as it is treated with the addition of alum, pot-ash, cream of tartar, le-mon-juice, or oil of vitriol, in due proportions. - It pays, on importation, a duty of lid. per lb.