Safflower, flowering annual plant, Carthamus tinctoris L, of the Asteraceae family; native to parts of Asia and Africa, from central India through the Middle East to the upper reaches of the Nile River and into Ethiopia. The safflower plant grows from 0.3 to 1.2 metres (1 to 4 feet) high and has flowers that may be red, orange, yellow, or white. Traditionally, the crop was grown for its flowers, used for colouring and flavouring foods and making dyes. For the last century, the plant has been cultivated mainly for the oil extracted from its seeds.