Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Gentianales - Family: Gentianaceae
This lovely and very common wildflower is a member of the Gentian family. It is common on the coast in England, Ireland and Wales and inhabits sand dunes and verges. Further inland it grows in dry, sandy soils and on chalk downland. A shorter form of Common Centaury (Dumpy Centaury - var. capitatum) grows on more exposed parts of the coast and is better adapted to survive the extreme coastal conditions, in particular the fierce winds that prevail there.
The flowers of Centaurium erythraea are a bright, pretty pink and grow in clusters on side-shoots up the plant's stem, culminating in a further terminal cluster at the top of the flower spike.
In Great Britain Common Centaury flowers from May until August.
Common Centaury is also common throughout the Mediterranean region where it grows on calcareous dry, sandy substrates. In many parts of the most southerly parts of Europe it seems to flower almost all year round, but the peak flowering time is from May to August.
The specimens shown above were photographed at Kenfig National Nature Reserve on the South Wales coast, but we have also photographed it in France, Slovenia, Italy, and the Algarve region of Portugal in May and June.