Bachelor Button Flowers
Bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus) offer many uses in the landscape, as this European native naturalizes easily in most parts of the United States. Attractive flowers, now in shades of red, white and pink are available in addition to the traditional blue color of bachelor button flowers. Combine red, white and blue varieties for a patriotic display on the 4th of July. Plant bachelor button flowers in borders, rock gardens and sunny areas where they can spread and naturalize. Frilly, showy flowers grow on multi-branching stems, which may reach 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm.). Bachelor button flowers are reseeding annuals and blooms may be single or double. Once planted, you will be growing bachelor buttons year after year as the reseed freely.
Bachelor’s Button flowers are small, showy blooms, averaging 2 to 5 centimeters in diameter, and have a spreading, upright appearance. The flowers grow on long, grey-green stems that can extend over one meter in height, and each flower is comprised of small, narrow, and jagged petals that cluster around a central disc. The flowers have a frilly, delicate appearance, and the petals are soft and crisp. Wild varieties of Bachelor’s Button flowers were primarily a cobalt blue, but with increased cultivation, the flowers now appear in shades of blue, purple, crimson, pink, and white. Bachelor’s Button flowers emit a faint aroma, and the petals are edible, containing a subtly vegetal, sweet, and peppery taste with cucumber and clove nuances.
Bachelor’s Button flowers are available in the late spring through early fall.
Bachelor’s Button flowers, botanically classified as Centaurea cyanus, are an ancient wildflower belonging to the Asteraceae family. The brilliantly colored flowers are easy-to-grow annuals, first discovered in grasslands, pastures, fields, and meadows. Over time, the flowers were selected for commercial cultivation and were bred to showcase vibrant hues and unusual, jagged petals naturalized worldwide. Bachelor’s Button flowers are also hardy plants, sometimes acquiring the title of an invasive species in specific landscapes, but this hardiness has captured the favor of home gardeners who appreciate the plant’s resilience. The flowers are self-seeding and can grow in many types of soil, and there are several common names for the flowers used worldwide, with Cornflowers being the most prevalent. Bachelor’s Button flowers are also known as Boutonniere flower, Blue Bonnet, Blue Cap, Basket flower, Blue Bottle, Ragged Sailors, and Hurt Sickle. The flowers earned their bachelor moniker from the Victorian Era. Single men would often wear a Cornflower in the buttonhole of their suit when they were courting women. The flower was a symbol of love and availability, and this practice eventually led the flowers to be a popular wedding boutonniere. Bachelor’s Button flowers have been used for centuries in culinary, medicinal, decorative, and practical applications. The flowers are preserved when dried, frequently used for everlasting flower arrangements, and the petals can be incorporated fresh or dried into culinary dishes, fabric dyes, and medicinal teas.
Bachelor’s Button flowers contain low amounts of vitamin C to reduce inflammation, folate to produce red blood cells, and calcium to protect bones and teeth. The flowers have also traditionally been used in natural medicines as an anti-inflammatory, steeped into teas and other mixtures. Bright blue Bachelor’s Button flowers get their vibrant hues from protocyanin, an anthocyanin pigment that contributes intense coloring to the petals. Protocyanin is what gives roses their rich red hues.
Bachelor’s Button flowers are utilized fresh or dried as a vibrant, edible garnish in culinary preparations. The flowers can be placed whole on top of cakes, main dishes, or appetizers for visual impact, removed before consumption, or the petals can be separated and individually scattered over dishes. Bachelor’s Button flowers have a light fragrance and a subtle, peppery-sweet flavoring that complements green salads, stir-fries, or seafood dishes. The brightly colored petals can be scattered across charcuterie boards, pressed on top of dips and cheeses, layered into spring rolls, or incorporated into beverages and ice cubes as a decorative touch. The petals can also be sprinkled over custards, cakes, ice cream, and puddings or dried and mixed into tea blends. In addition to using the petals whole, Bachelor’s Button flowers can be used to naturally color sugar, icings, and syrups. Bachelor’s Button flowers pair well with vanilla, chocolate, caramel, fruits such as coconut, strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, and apples, radishes, spring greens, broccoli, and meats including poultry, turkey, and fish. Freshly harvested Bachelor’s Button flowers will keep 1 to 2 weeks when stored in a glass of water with their stems intact. The petals can also be dried and stored in a sealed container for up to one year.
Bachelor’s Button flowers were discovered in the tomb of King Tutankhamen, the famous Egyptian pharaoh who died in 1340 BC. The blossoms were woven into an intricate floral collar, a traditional accessory placed on the pharaoh’s body during the funeral. The floral collar was comprised of Bachelor’s Button flowers, olive leaves, berries, and other flowers, sewn onto papyrus, and a linen tie attached the collar. After the funeral, the floral collar was placed with other ceremonial items into large storage jars and was buried in the tomb with the belief that the pharaoh could use the items in the afterlife. Bachelor’s Button flowers are also historically tied to countries in Europe. The flowers are the national flower of Germany and were selected for their unique coloring, similar to Prussian blue, which was the color of the Prussian military uniform in the 17th and 18th centuries. Bachelor’s Button flowers were also significant in the famous Prussian story of Queen Louise. The legend states that the wildflowers concealed the queen and her children in a field during Napoleon’s invasion, and the kids remained quiet in the field by weaving the flowers into wreaths. After this story, Bachelor’s Button flowers became closely tied to Prussia, and the flowers have remained a symbol of hope, unity, and resilience in Germany.
Bachelor’s Button flowers are native to Europe and Western Asia and have been growing wild since ancient times. The flowers were spread in the Early Ages to Northern Africa, where they were extensively used in Ancient Egypt and were introduced to the British Isles sometime in the Iron Age. Bachelor’s Button flowers thrived in temperate regions and were once widely found in fields across Europe. Over time, herbicides and habitat destruction significantly reduced the wildflower’s prominence, eventually causing it to become endangered in some regions of Europe. Despite their decline in the wild, Bachelor’s Button flowers became a favored cultivated flower and were naturally bred to showcase multi-colored hues beyond the classic blue. Bachelor’s Button flowers were planted in the United States in the 1600s, and the fast-growing blooms quickly naturalized across the country, also becoming a favored home garden flower. In the 1930s and 1940s, many new varieties were created that are still sown in gardens today. Bachelor’s Button flowers are commonly found in corn and grain fields, grassy plains, along property borders, and in curated home gardens throughout Europe, Asia, Northern Africa, Canada, the United States, and Australia.
By: Idris Saify