Carthamus tinctorius (Safflower) – a pleasant concurrence

Pleasant news: a comment at suggests that another person has identified a plant in the manuscript as  C. tinctorius, this agreeing with a post I wrote about f.54r back in 2011.


Beinecke MS 408 f.54r

Before  closing the old research blog ‘Findings’ and another called ‘voynich.retro’ I thought it proper to have at least two scholars maintain their access to serve as safeguard against my mis-quoting the old posts or their date of publication – so you may feel comfortable that the publication details shown below are accurate.

Note This post came out of a question I was currently investigating, namely whether  the makers distinguished between oil-producing plants and dye-producing plants in this imagery, and if so how.  For that, I needed only to mention one of the plants in f.54r and I chose C.tinctorius chiefly because I thought the drawing so clear that even casual readers with no prior study of comparative history or art would ‘get it’.

The post received no comment and as far as I’ve had news, it wasn’t reference correctly by anyone writing later.  Given how constantly people were turned off this study between 2008 and c.2015, I don’t expect many now involved will remember this post. But who knows? Maybe there’s a download  somewhere in the files of some hoary Voynichero inclined to dispense suggestions.  🙂


from ‘Findings‘ blogger blog (now closed)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

fol.54r – SAFFLOWER Carthamus tinctorius L


Carthamus tinctoria

safflower-pic-1-54rPopular names:safflower-carthamus_tinctorius-pic-2

Dyer’s saffron

Fake saffron


Bastard Saffron


Names in numerous other languages, courtesy of Gernot Katzer..see list at end of page.


“extensively cultivated in India, China and other parts of Asia, also in Egypt and southern Europe.

It grows to about 2 or 3 feet high (approx 1 meter) with a stiff, upright,whitish stem, branching near the top; and has oval, spiny, sharp-pointed leaves, their bases half-clasping the stem. Its fruits are about the size of barley-corns,somewhat four-sided, white and shining,like little shells.

… chiefly used for dyeing silk …

The seeds  yield an oil much used in India for cooking and burning and for culinary purposes.”

Grieves, A Modern Herbal p.698


Safflower Carthamus tinctorius L. is one of humanity’s oldest crops. Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the Twelfth dynasty identified dyes made from safflower, and garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamen.

John Chadwick reports that the Greek name for safflower occurs many times in Linear B tablets, distinguished into two kinds: a white safflower, which is measured, and red which is weighed.

“The explanation is that there are two parts of the plant which can be used; the pale seeds and the red florets.”

Carthamus tinctorius is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual, usually with many long sharp spines on the leaves. Plants are 30 to 150 cm tall with globular flower heads (capitula) and commonly, brilliant yellow, orange or red flowers. …. Safflower has a strong taproot which enables it to thrive in dry climates, but the plant is very susceptible to frost injury from stem elongation to maturity…. (which see further for information about the plant’s parts and uses)


… probably native to Africa, and grown in southern Europe, India, China,North Africa and most hot, dry areas of the [older] world.Safflower has numerous roots and an erect, ridged stem that branches near the top and reaches a height of 60-100cm(24-40 inches).The yellow or orange flower heads bloom from August to October,and the shiny white fruits look like little shells… An infusion made from the flowers .. acts as a mild purgative and promotes perspiration.In the past, this was given to children suffering from measles and fevers. [Western pharmacopoeia]

Martyn and Rix, Herbs (1990) pp.88-89.


The following list depends almost entirely on matter in Gernot Katzer’s extraordinarily helpful website.  I have presumed on his good nature by reproducing it here before having his permission,but such is Gernot’s ability to infuse his work with sheer good will, that one dares…



Botanical         Carthamus tinctorius Linn.

pharmaceutical  Flores Carthami

Arabic       عصفر عُصْفُر   Asfour, Asfur, Usfur **mod. Arabic        qurtum
Assamese   কুসুম ফুল Kusumphul;
Azeri           Şafran; more rarely also Zəfəran; Шафран, Зәфәран
Belarusian    Сафлор; Saflor
Bengali কুসুম ফুল Kusum-phul
Bulgarian          Сафлор Saflor
Chinese (Cantonese) 大紅花 [daaih hùhng fāa], 紅蘭花 [hùhng làahn fāa]                                   Daaih huhng faa,     Huhng laahn faa
Chinese (Mandarin) 大紅花 [dà hóng huā], 紅蘭花 [hóng lán huā]                                 Da hong hua,                Hong lan hua
Catalan          Flors de càrtam
Croatian        Šafranika, Bojadisarski bodalj
Czech           Světlice barvířská, Azafrán
Danish          Farvetidsel, Safflor
Dutch           Saffloer
**Egyptian, ancient kt3h; Dioscorides says they called it khino **
English         Safflower, Safflor, Bastard saffron
Esperanto     Tinktura kartamo
Estonian        Värvisafloor, Värvisafloori õied
Farsi              گل رنگ   Gul rang
Finnish           Värisaflori, Saflori
French            Carthame, Safran bâtard
Georgian ალისარჩული, შაფრანი; ყვითელი ყვავილი (?), ზაფრანა (?)                      Alisarchuli,    Shaprani; Q’vit’eli-q’vavili (?), Qviteli-qvavili, Kviteli-kvavili (?), Zaprana (?)
German Saflor, Färbersaflor, Färberdistel
Greek Κνίκος Knikos **Greek Hemeros
Greek (Old) Κνῆκος, Κνίκιον, Κνίκος                      Knekos, Knikion, Knikos
Gujarati કુસુમ્બો Kusumbo
Hebrew קרטם, קורטם   קֻרְטָם, קוּרְטָם             Kurtam, Qurtam
Hindi कुसुम Kusum
Hungarian Pórsáfrány, Sáfrányos szeklice, Szeklice, Szaflór, Olajözön, Magyar pirosító
Icelandic   Litunarkollur
Irish          Chróch bréige
Italian       Cartamo, Falso zafferano
Japanese    紅花 べにばな ベニバナ Benibana
Kannada    ಕುಸುಂಬೆ Kusumbe
Korean    홍화, 홍화씨, 싸플라워                Honghwa, Honggwassi, Sapullaweo
Kazakh Мақсары Maqsarı
Laotian Kham nhong
Latin Cnecos
Lithuanian Dažinis dygminas
Macedonian Шафраника                     Šafranika
Malayalam കുസുംഭം Kusumbham, Shinduram
Marathi करडई Kardai
Nepali कुसुम Kusum Newari
(Nepalbhasa) कुसुम फुल Kusum phul
Norwegian       Saflor
Oriya          Kusuma
Pahlavi         Zardak
Polish           Krokosz barwierski
Portuguese Cártamo, Açafroa, Açafrão-bastardo, Falso-açafrão
Punjabi ਕੁਸਮ   Kusam
Romanian Șofrănaș (Şofrănaş), Șofrănel (Şofrănel), Șofran sălbatic (Şofran sălbatic), Uruian†, Pintenoagă†
Russian     Сафлор              Saflor
Sanskrit    Kusumbha
Serbian      Бодаљ, Дивљи шафран, Шафраника, Шафрањика                          Bodalj, Divlji šafran, Šafranika, Šafranjika
Slovak    Požlt farbiarska, Azafrán
Slovenian Žafranika, Barvilni žafran, Barvilni rumenik
Spanish Cártamo, Alazor
Swedish Safflor, Färgtistel
Tamil குசும்பா Kusumba
Telugu కుసుంబా పుష్పము            Agnisikha, Kusumba pushpamu
Thai คำฝอย Kham nhong, Khamfoi
Tibetan (see Gur-gum, Kusuma
Turkish       Aspir çiçeği, Aspur, Yalancı safran, Papağanyemi, Yerli safran, Safran yalancı, Asfur, Hasbir, Kırsafranı, Kartam†, Kuş yemi†, Kurtum† Esfur†
Urdu کسنب, زعفران کاذب  Kusumba, Zafran kadhab
Vietnamese Cây rum, Hồng ho,  Cay rum, Hong hoa
Yiddish זײפֿבלום, װילדער זאַפֿרען           Zeyfblum, Vilder Zafren


** from: Manniche, Lise, An Ancient Egyptian Herbal. Manniche also gives the Coptic, and the Egyptian hieratic [hieroglyphic] forms, but alas, I cannot reproduce them here.
Her book is available to view online. See through Google Books p.83


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