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Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant. It belongs to the Asteracese family. It is commercially cultivated for oil extracted from the seeds. It is described as a bushy herbaceous plant possessing several branches. Plants are 30 to 150 cm (12 to 59 in) tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange, or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head. Safflower is native to arid environments having seasonal rain. It grows a deep taproot which enables it to thrive in such environments.
Safflower is one of humanity's oldest crops. Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the Twelfth dynasty identified dyes made from safflower, and garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun. Safflower was also known as carthamine in the nineteenth century. Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) production commenced in Australia during the 1950’s. American safflower material was successfully introduced and adapted to Australian conditions by Australian breeders located in Biloela, Queensland and after just four years, over 4046 hectares in Central Queensland were sown to safflower.