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Cephalaria gigantea 2

Cephalaria is a genus of flowering plants in the Caprifoliaceae family, which is native to the Mediterranean region, as well as parts of Asia and Europe. The genus includes a variety of species, many of which are known for their ornamental value and use in traditional medicine. Cephalaria species are perennial herbs or subshrubs, characterized by their large, pinnately lobed leaves and sizeable, pale yellow to white flower heads, which are often compared to those of the closely related Scabiosa.

Description[edit | edit source]

Cephalaria plants can reach heights of up to 2 meters, depending on the species. They possess an upright habit, with branching stems that support a generous foliage of green leaves. The leaves are typically pinnately divided, with a rough texture. The flowers of Cephalaria are produced in large, terminal inflorescences, which are composed of many small florets. These florets are usually pale yellow, cream, or white, making them quite noticeable in the garden landscape. The flowering period extends from late spring through to early autumn, providing a long season of interest.

Taxonomy[edit | edit source]

The genus Cephalaria was first described by the German botanist Joseph Gaertner in the 18th century. It belongs to the family Caprifoliaceae, following the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG) system of classification. Within the Caprifoliaceae, Cephalaria is closely related to the genus Scabiosa, and the two are sometimes confused due to their similar flower appearance.

Distribution and Habitat[edit | edit source]

Cephalaria species are found in a wide range of habitats, from sunny, open fields to rocky hillsides and woodland edges. They are particularly prevalent in the Mediterranean region but can also be found in parts of Asia and Europe. These plants are adapted to a variety of soil types, though they generally prefer well-drained soils.

Cultivation and Uses[edit | edit source]

Cephalaria species are valued in the garden for their height, attractive foliage, and distinctive flowers. They are used in mixed borders, wildflower gardens, and as a backdrop for lower-growing plants. These plants are relatively easy to grow, requiring full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. They are drought-tolerant once established and can thrive with minimal care.

In addition to their ornamental use, some species of Cephalaria have been used in traditional medicine for their purported health benefits. However, scientific evidence supporting these uses is limited.

Species[edit | edit source]

There are several species within the genus Cephalaria, including:

Conservation[edit | edit source]

While many Cephalaria species are common and not considered at risk, habitat destruction and overcollection have led to declines in some areas. Conservation efforts are focused on habitat preservation and the cultivation of plants in botanical gardens and through horticultural societies.

See Also[edit | edit source]


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD