safflower, Eurasian thistlelike herb ( Carthamus tinctorius ) of the family Asteraceae (aster family). Safflower, or false saffron, has long been cultivated in S Asia and Egypt for food and medicine and as a costly but inferior substitute for the true saffron dye. In the United States, where it is sometimes called American saffron, it is more important as the source of safflower oil, which has recently come into wide use as a cooking oil. Safflower is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Asterales, family Asteraceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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