Purple Scourge
May 29, 2011 5:31 PM   Subscribe

Please help us identify this flower that I just paid money for, that my parents claim is a scourge upon their yard at home.

Here and here are photos of this purple flower. They are part of a flower arrangement I bought today, but my father says his neighbor gave them some to plant in their garden back home and they've taken over an entire flowerbed. I live in Seattle and my parents' house is in Northern Virginia. Any idea what it is? And if I paid for a bouquet of weeds?
posted by Mizu to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Best answer: Those are Bachelor's Buttons, (aka Cornflowers). They're an inexpensive annual cut flower that is often used in mixed bouquets.
posted by thebestsophist at 5:36 PM on May 29, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you, fine denizens of Metafilter, for doing what you do best!
posted by Mizu at 5:42 PM on May 29, 2011

Best answer: Yep, I'm pretty sure you've got yourself a variety of Centaurea montana! Some Centaurea are invasive in the United States to greater or lesser degrees, depending on the species. I'm not surprised that this one's taken over your parents' flowerbed. It's not the most common invasive species in the genus, though.
posted by pemberkins at 5:43 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you need help help convincing your father as to their worthiness, they're mentioned with much affection in E. M. Forster's Room with a View.

...although, yes, invasive non-native species are bad. [sad]
posted by smirkette at 7:09 PM on May 29, 2011

Oddly enough at the florist I work at I have NEVER seen these. Must be a regional thing.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:21 PM on May 29, 2011

a weed is just a plant growing where someone doesn't want it to be there. Raspberry bushes can be weeds; dandelion bouquets often graced my mother's table. (Of course, that's because I was six and I picked them and I made her put them there).
posted by jb at 9:50 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

St. Alia of the Bunnies: I've been to flower conferences all around the country…they're everywhere. However, higher-end and city florist shops are less likely to buy them because they tend to be considered cheap, rustic, and throwaway. They're filler.
posted by thebestsophist at 10:10 PM on May 29, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, I'm perfectly happy to have paid for my weeds, jb. Besides, they were included with irises and tulips and such, and they are a lovely color. It's sort of a side-interest of mine, the rebranding of agricultural products to be more appealing to the consumer, so this is just another note of interest to me, if people considered these flowers to be weeds or not. I'm happy that now I know they're considered filler by pros but opinion is split on their weediness or not.
posted by Mizu at 11:01 PM on May 29, 2011

I've got a pile of those in my backyard - they spread like weeds but they do fill in an unloved corner quite nicely. They're nice enough when in bloom but look kind of ugly after the flower has faded.

I was surprised when I visited an expert flower gardener friend and she had some growing - on purpose - in her fine garden. Made me feel a little better about my backyard.
posted by Gortuk at 7:43 AM on May 30, 2011

No, an invasive species isn't just a "weed someone doesn't want there". Invasive species present problems for the local environment because all the other flora and fauna haven't developed with it. As a result the non-native plants wreak havoc on the local environment. Witness the disaster that is bamboo or kudzu. There are plenty of local varieties of plants, choose ones already suited for the location.
posted by wkearney99 at 9:36 AM on May 30, 2011

wkearney99 - I said nothing about invasive species. That's an entirely separate issue from the division between weed and desired plant. One can have consciously planted or useful invasive species, such as black wattle in South Africa. Still invasive, not considered to be weeds by the locals, because they are useful. Prickly pear is very invasive - and cattle farmers hate it - but it's also very useful.
posted by jb at 5:22 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

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