Annuals or perennials, 30–180 cm, herbage glabrous to ± glandular and/or ± tomentose. Stems usually erect, branched distally or throughout, (leafy). Leaves basal and cauline or all cauline; basal and proximal cauline winged-petiolate, distal cauline sessile, sometimes clasping; blade margins dentate to pinnately lobed, ± spiny, faces glabrous or ± glandlar and/or ± tomentose. Heads discoid, borne singly or in few-headed cymiform arrays. Involucres ovoid, constricted distally. Phyllaries many in 4–5 series, linear to ovate (at least outer ± leaflike), bases appressed, apical appendages more herbaceous, prominently veiny, spiny-dentate or -lobed, spine-tipped. Receptacles convex to conic, epaleate, bearing subulate scales. Florets 15–60+; corollas yellow to red or ± purple, tubes very slender, throats gradually or abruptly expanded, ± cylindric or short-campanulate, lobes linear; anther bases short-tailed, apical appendages oblong; style branches: fused portions with slightly swollen basal nodes minutely hairy, distally minutely papillate, distinct portions very short. Cypselae oblong to obpyramidal, ± 4-angled, apices with smooth or dentate rims, faces usually ± roughened (outer) or smooth (inner), glabrous, attachment scars lateral; pappi 0 or (usually only inner cypselae) ± persistent, of many, usually unequal, narrow scales overlapping in several series. x = 10, 12.
Introduced; United States, Mediterranean region.
Species 14 (4 in the flora).
|1||Corollas pink or pale purple; cauline leaves ± deeply lobed||Carthamus leucocaulos|
|1||Corollas yellow to red; cauline leaves toothed to deeply lobed||> 2|
|2||Cauline leaves toothed, otherwise undivided, weakly spiny; corollas yellow to red; cypselae white||Carthamus tinctorius|
|2||Cauline leaves ± divided, very spiny; corollas yellow; cypselae brown||> 3|
|3||Anthers yellow, pollen yellow; corollas bright yellow; outer phyllaries usually not more than 1.5 times as long as inner; herbage ± cobwebby; stems stramineous.||Carthamus lanatus|
|3||Anthers white with purple lines, pollen white; corollas pale yellow; outer phyllaries usually 2 times as long as inner; herbage ± sparsely hairy; stems white or stramineous||Carthamus creticus|