Common Centaury

With a long flowering period from June to October, the pink flowers of Common Centaury can be found across the Lizard from summer to autumn.
Photo: Amanda Scott

Scientific name: Centaurium erythraea

Other common names: European Centaury

Conservation status: No designations.

The mass of pink flowers found on Common Centaury is a familiar sight at this time of year across the country: the plant has a widespread distribution in Britain, although it is more localised in Scotland. Its habitat preferences accommodate slightly acidic to calcareous soils and it can tolerate disturbance: Common Centaury can therefore be found in a range of locations, including heaths, grassland, dunes and waste ground.

A biennial member of the Gentian family (Gentianaceae), it can grow to 50 cm tall, although may be smaller in exposed spots. The plant has a small basal rosette of leaves, and elliptical opposite leaves on the stem. Each plant produces numerous five-petalled pink flowers with yellow anthers, which appear from June to September, ensuring a long-lasting display.

Did you know…?

…although its natural distribution is in Europe, Asia and northern Africa, Common Centaury has been introduced to eastern Australia and North America, where it has become naturalised

…Common Centaury has been used in the past as a herb for treating fevers. It was also once believed that it could help get rid of freckles.

More information and references:

Mabey, R., 1997. Flora Britannica. Chatto & Windus, London.

Rose, F. and O’Reilly, C., 2006. The Wild Flower Key, 2nd edition. Frederick Warne, London.

Stace, C., 2010. New Flora of the British Isles, 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Published: August 2013
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Amanda Scott