Cornflower Centaurea cyanus
"And for the blue that o’er the sea is born, A brighter rises in our standing corn."
- Anne Finch, "An Invitation to Daphnis"
An iconic image of rural meadows, the bright blue cornflower was once a common sight in cornfields, but it has declined dramatically in the wild in the last 60 years.
Where it grows
Cornfields, roadsides and hedgerows, particularly on light and sandy soils.
Best time to see
Flowers from June to August.
How's it doing?
The cornflower owes its decline to modern agricultural practices, such as increased use of herbicides and fertilisers, the development of highly competitive crop varieties, the destruction of field-edges, the demise of traditional crop rotations and the conversion of marginal arable land to pasture. These factors continue to be a threat to its future. The decline of the cornflower illustrates what has happened to many of our wildflowers over the last 60 years.
3 things you may not know
- The most valuable blue sapphires are called cornflower blue, having a medium-dark violet-blue tone
- Cornflowers were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Despite having being over 3,000 years old they had lost very little of their colour.
- The French wear cornflowers much like we wear poppies: as a symbol of remembrance. It is known as the Bleuet de France.