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Wildflowers characterized by two layers of stems at the apex, cornflower flowers love the sun and do not particularly suffer from the typical cold of the winter months. It is, in fact, an annual and perennial herbaceous plant. Coming from Asia, North America and Europe, the cornflower owes its botanical name, Centaurea, to a myth that has its origins in the past: legend has it, in fact, that it was a Fiordaliso wrap to heal the centaur Chiton . Another legend linked to these flowers takes us back to the time of Napoleon, when William I, king of Germany, on the run from a battle, saw his mother in a cornfield weaving cornflower flowers in bunches in order to calm the children who were with her: for this reason, once he returned to the throne, he placed the cornflower in the heraldic coat of arms. A flower of the field belonging to the asticee family, the cornflower is scientifically called cyanus segetum, to highlight the main color of its flowers (the Greek word kyanos, in fact, indicates a blue substance, similar in color to lapis lazuli); the term segetum, on the other hand, comes from segetis, the Latin word representing the sown, to indicate that the cereal fields constitute its privileged habitat. Finally, the common name fiordaliso derives simply from fleur de lys, which in French means flower of lily. The multiplication of this plant takes place by seed, bearing in mind that both the autumnal varieties and the perennial varieties can be planted and sown with the arrival of spring, although to obtain a more evident and luxuriant flowering it is preferable to proceed at the end of summer, to then protect them, during the winter, in a seedbed.
How it's done
Characterized by secondary roots from taproot, the cornflower usually reaches a height of between twenty and ninety centimeters, and presents a scapital terofita biological form: this means that it is able to overcome the harsh climate of winter in the form of seed. Covered by a soft whitish tomentosity, the plant, often without leaves, has a straight floral axis, with the stem that in its aerial part is widely branched and long (with pyramidal branches), flaccid and with a cobwebs pelt on the surface. The flowers of cornflower are constituted by erect peduncles and rather long afilli, which have a variable number of heads, in turn formed by an oval or pear-shaped envelope with scales positioned around a receptacle. These scales are red in color, with silvered eyelashes, while the surface is pubescent. As for the leaves, they are positioned at the basal rosette, with the lower part having a greyish surface, and the slightly arachnoid and green colored adaxial part. The hermaphroditic flowers are pentamers and tetracyclics, ie consisting of corolla, calyx, gynoecium and androcean, of tubular type. In the chalice, the sepals are nothing but a crown of scales, while the corolla has five slender lobes on the apex. The flowers, about one and a half centimeters long, are characterized by a violet or blue color which in any case varies in luster and intensity depending on the acidity of the juice contained in the cells. While in the gynaeceum the ovary is composed of two carpels and the stigmas of the stylus diverge, in the androcheal the anthers are connected in a tube or sleeve that wraps the style, more or less like the corolla, with leathery extensions on the upper part . The stamens, on the other hand, have short and free filaments, characterized by sensory movements that can be put into action by any tactile stimulus (an insect pronubo, for example), so that the pollen is freed from the anthers: at the same time , the stylus straightens out so that it can receive the pollen more easily.
As far as the reproduction of cornflower flowers is concerned, it naturally occurs through the pollination made possible by insects (the so-called entomogamous pollination): in particular, through the dispersion the seeds are collected by ants, according to the so-called mirmecoria dissemination, or carried by the wind, according to the so-called anemocora dissemination. The fruits of the plant are ellipse-shaped achenes, whose length does not exceed four millimeters, with longitudinal streaks on the sides and with pappus. It consists of internal scales and external bristles of a few millimeters. In Italy the cornflower is widespread, present throughout the territory; in Europe, however, it is found in the Carpathians, the Massif Central, the Vosges and the Pyrenees. It should be stressed, however, that because of the herbicides used in agriculture, its spread is at risk in many areas of Europe, and particularly in Great Britain, where it is even considered at risk of extinction.
Cornflower flowers: The habitat
The plant's typical habitat, as evidenced, is represented by cereal fields, but it is not uncommon to encounter cornflowers in uncultivated land, meadows and even along roadsides. Anyone wishing to try their hand at cultivation must know that the best substrate is siliceous or calcareous, with rather low nutritional values and neutral pH. Furthermore, the soil should preferably be dry.