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Genus Centaurea Family Asteraceae

Description: Annual, biennial or perennial herbs.

Leaves basal or cauline, alternate, entire to pinnatisect.

Heads solitary or in groups of 2 or 3, terminal, sessile or pedunculate, ovoid; involucral bracts multiseriate, unequal, herbaceous, with a scarious or hard comb-like or spiny appendage (absent from innermost bracts); receptacle ± flat, hairy. Florets all tubular, outer sterile, inner bisexual and fertile; corolla with 5 long narrow lobes, those of outer florets often larger, more brightly coloured and spreading. Anthers caudate at base, apical appendage narrow. Style with thickened, often pubescent ring, branches appressed.

Achenes oblong, compressed, asymmetric; pappus 2–many rows of scales or bristles, often reduced or absent.

Distribution and occurrence: World: 500–600 species, Mediterranean region, India, China, North & South America; almost cosmopolitan weed. Australia: 6 species (naturalized), all States except N.T.

Text by L. Murray
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Centaurea benedicta,    Centaurea sp. A sensu Murray (1992),    Centaurea stoebe,    Centaurea x moncktonii

 Key to the species 
1Spines on involucral bracts2
Spines absent from involucral bracts, appendages of involucral bracts fringed5
2Spines on bracts stout, 5–15 mm long3
Spines on bracts not stout, usually less than 5 mm long
                       Back to 1
3Leaves and stems dark green with coarse, stiff, septate hairs; flowers purpleCentaurea calcitrapa
Leaves and stems greyish with long, soft, fine, cobwebby, simple hairs; flowers yellow
                       Back to 2
Centaurea solstitialis
4Upper cauline leaves lobed; small lateral spines either side of apical spine on bracts; flowers purpleCentaurea species A
Upper cauline leaves entire to toothed; small basal spines either side of apical spine on bracts; flowers yellow
                       Back to 2
Centaurea melitensis
5Appendage margins dissected into short broad teeth, usually brown and darker than the lamina, not obscuring the bract aboveCentaurea cyanus
Appendage with fine ciliate long margins, as dark or lighter than the lamina, usually covering the base of the bract above
                       Back to 1
Centaurea species B

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