Lesser Knapweed, Centaurea nigra
Lesser Knapweed, is a widespread species of perennial flowering plant in the daisy family that is native to Europe. Growing up to 1 meter tall, the leaves of this plant are deeply lobed, hairy and up to 25 cm long. From July to September, the plant bears bright-purple, edible flowers that are reminiscent of thistles heads. Although the plant is considered a weed by many, it provides a great deal of nectar for pollinators, and has been rated in the top 5 for most nectar production in a UK plants survey conducted by the AgriLand Project. The plant is also an important source of food for Goldfinch, Honey Bees, the Lime-Speck Pug Moth, and a broad range of butterfly species, including the Painted Lady, Peacock, Red Admiral.
We tend to add the edible flower heads of Knapweed to salads, which adds a beautiful splash of colour to an otherwise very green dish. Arthur also occasionally bites flower heads straight from the plant whilst pretending to be a T-Rex!
Lesser Knapweed Checklist
🐑 Grassland, including paddocks, fields and meadows.
🏡 Urban Green Spaces, including scrubland, parks and gardens.
🌳 Deciduous Woodland edges.
🌞🍂 June - September
☘️ The lance-shaped, pale green, and hairy leaves alternate up the stem. The lower leaves are stalked and sometimes toothed, whilst the upper ones are stalkless. Leaves can be up to 25 cm long.
🌷 Distinctive, small bright purple thistle-like flowers emerging from a tough and inedible purple-brown bract.
🌱 The hairy green stem is ribbed and branched at the top, with each branch housing a single flowerhead. Older stems can become hairless. The plant grows up to 100 cm tall.
Fruit / Seeds
🍏 After flowering the gard bract houses the seeds.
🌷 Flowers - The delicate purple flowerheads should be snipped off at the tough inedible brown bracts.
Aroma / Taste
👃 The flowers house a mild floral smell.
👅 Pleasant-tasting flowerheads.
🟩 ID Difficulty - Beginner
👀 The non-spiny, thistle-like branched flowerheads are the key identifying feature of this plant.
🥗 Salad - Can be eaten raw and added to salads.
🌺 Garnish - Can be used as a garnish.
☕️ Beverage - Can be used to make teas or other drinks.