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Centaurea montana is the scientific name for a purplish blue wildflower that is native to the southern mountain ranges of Europe. Other common names for this flower include Bachelor's Button, Mountain Bluet, Perennial Cornflower, Mountain Cornflower and Montane Knapweed. It is a quickly spreading, hardy, perennial plant that has been traditionally known for several medicinal uses. It can be found growing in the wild, and is commonly grown in gardens as well.
Centaurea montana most often grows profusely in groups of plants, and spreads easily. They commonly grow to a height of 12 to 28 inches (30 to 70 cm) tall. The color of the flower is a vibrant, purplish blue. The flower has a center disc that is a darker shade, surrounded by lighter colored petals. The petals resemble tiny flowers, with very narrow bases where they meet the center, and a delicate, fringed, spread out appearance at the tips. The stems and the long, wide leaves are bright green, with a fuzzy texture.
The native area where Centaurea montana was originally found is the mountains of southern Europe, but it now grows in the wild all over the world. It spreads in such a prolific way that it routinely escapes from gardens where it's planted and is now commonly seen in North America, Great Britain and Scandinavia. It can frequently be found growing along roadsides, in meadows, and in lightly wooded areas. It's also a popular garden flower in borders and flower beds.
Since it is a perennial, Centaurea montana comes back each growing season, usually from late spring to fall with flowers blooming during the summer. It spreads rapidly without intervention, self-seeding each year. Gardeners may want to monitor it to be sure it doesn't crowd out other plants. Once established, it doesn't require much care. It can grow easily in any soil, and doesn't require fertilization. It thrives in full sun or partial shade, and needs an average amount of water.
Butterfly enthusiasts enjoy Centaurea montana in the garden since it is known to attract large numbers of butterflies. It also several other uses. Extracts from the plant are often used in conditioners and shampoos, and dried flowers can be included in potpourri. The flowers are known as an astringent herb, and are sometimes used as an ingredient in treatments for conditions such as oral wounds or ulcers, corneal ulcers, and conjunctivitis or pink eye.
Centaurea montana (and other cultivars) also makes a good candidate for cut flower gardens. The prolific flowers grow on long stems, and with careful maintenance, the flowering season for well-established plants can be extended for several weeks.
However, the flowers, once cut, are highly heat-sensitive, and if they are not quickly moved into a cool and shady environment, they will wilt and fade within a day. With proper management, the cut flowers will last (in water), for approximately a week.