Page authors: Don Knoke, David Giblin
Centaurea melitensis
Maltese starthistle, tocalote

Distribution: Occurring chiefly west of the Cascades in Washington; British Columbia to California and Mexico, east to Texas and eastern North America.

Habitat: Roadsides, meadows, balds, fields, ditches, wastelots, and other disturbed, open areas at low to middle elevations.

Flowers: June-September

Origin: Introduced from the Mediterranean region

Growth Duration: Annual, Biennial

Conservation Status: Not of concern


Annual, 1.5-7 dm. tall, lightly covered with crisp hairs, the stem with narrow wings from the leaf bases.


Basal and lower cauline leaves oblanceolate, toothed to lyrate-pinnatifid, 3-15 cm. long and 5-35 mm. wide, usually deciduous; middle and upper cauline leaves smaller, becoming linear-oblong and entire upward.


Heads few to numerous; involucre 8-15 mm. high, broader toward the base, its middle and outer bracts spine-tipped, the central spine 5-9 mm. long; the inner bracts purple tinged; flowers yellow, all alike; pappus 1.5-3 mm. long; receptacle strongly bristly.

Accepted Name:
Centaurea melitensis L.
Publication: Sp. Pl. 2: 917. 1753.

Synonyms & Misapplications:
(none provided)
Additional Resources:

PNW Herbaria: Specimen records of Centaurea melitensis in the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database.

WA Flora Checklist: Centaurea melitensis checklist entry.

E-Flora BC: Centaurea melitensis atlas page.

CalPhotos: Centaurea melitensis photos.

USDA Plants: Centaurea melitensis information.

9 photographs:
Group by