LESSER KNAPWEED (Centaurea nigra)


 Sarah Raven’s Wildflower Seeds – Greater KnapweedLesser Knapweed at Gillespie Park


Centaurea nigra is a perennial, common on clay soils throughout Europe. It grows to a height of 2 ft 6in on poor ground, reaching a height of 4ft in enriched garden soil.  At Highbury it goes through winter with a circle of green leaves at ground level & the dry brown stems of last year’s plant which we leave in place. In spring, new stems rise from fresh leaves & masses of knobbly brown buds form at the stem-tips. By June these dusty buds open up into small ‘shaving brushes’ with shaggy LAVENDER heads.

Bees’ Favourite.

It is as though bees overfly the garden in spring, keeping watch on the Knapweed. When its brown buds have at last become shaving brushes, the pollinators come. Soon the air above the Knapweed is alive with insects seeking pollen and nectar. Around the UK bees, moths, hoverflies & butterflies – including Brimstone, Comma, Common Blue, Large Skipper, Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Painted Lady, Peacock & Small Tortoiseshell – visit this wildflower.

Although Knapweed can flower until September, it usually only blooms until late August here in North London. But for every day a flower blooms it is a magnet for insects. You can almost hear the bees sigh as they fly in to find that the last shaving brush has gone over.

Other names: Bunds, Dromedary, Drummer Boys, Drummer Heads, Gnat-flower, Hackymore, Hairy Head, Hard Hack, Hardheads, Hickymore, Horse Hardhead, Horsehoof, Horse Knot, Ironweed, Isenheard (Old English), Knot-weed, Lady’s Cushion and Yronhard.


Knapweed on wildflower mural, Ecology Centre, Gillespie Park

Knapweed on wildflower mural, Ecology Centre, Gillespie Park

HONEYBEES on knapweed 29 July 2014