Safflower vs. Saffron

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Safflower and Saffron is that the Safflower is a species of plant, safflower and Saffron is a flower and spice.

  • Safflower

    Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant. It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds. Plants are 30 to 150 cm (12 to 59 in) tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange, or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head. Safflower is native to arid environments having seasonal rain. It grows a deep taproot which enables it to thrive in such environments.

  • Saffron

    Saffron (pronounced or ) is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. The vivid crimson stigmas and styles, called threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight, was probably first cultivated in or near Greece. C. sativus is probably a form of C. cartwrightianus, that emerged by human cultivators selectively breeding plants for unusually long stigmas in late Bronze Age Crete. It slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.

    Saffron’s taste and iodoform or hay-like fragrance result from the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid pigment, crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Its recorded history is attested in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical treatise compiled under Ashurbanipal, and it has been traded and used for over four millennia. Iran now accounts for approximately 90% of the world production of saffron.

  • Safflower (noun)

    A cultivated thistle-like plant, Carthamus tinctorius, family Asteraceae, now grown mainly for its oil.

  • Saffron (noun)

    The plant Crocus sativus, a crocus.

  • Saffron (noun)

    A spice (seasoning) and colouring agent made from the stigma and part of the style of the plant, sometimes or formerly also used as a dye and insect repellent.


  • Saffron (noun)

    An orange-yellow colour, the colour of a lion’s pelt.

    “saffron yellow”

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  • Saffron (adjective)

    Having an orange-yellow colour.

    “The saffron robe of a Buddhist monk.”

  • Saffron (verb)

    To add saffron to (a food), for taste, colour etc.

    “saffroned water, saffroned rice.”

  • Saffron (verb)

    To give a saffron colour to (something).

  • Saffron (verb)

    To dye (a fabric, garment, etc.) with a saffron-based dye.

  • Saffron (verb)

    To embellish.


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