Micro-Season: “The Safflower Blossoms” (2023)

We have entered the micro-season of “The Safflower Blossoms.” This is the second micro-season of the mini-season of Grain Full. All the micro-seasons within Grain Full are:

  • The Silk Worm Awakes and Eats the Mulberry (May 21 – May 25)
  • The Safflower Blossoms (May 26 – May 30)
  • The Time for Wheat (May 31 – Jun 04)

The micro-seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai. While they are specific to Japan, they can be helpful to people all over the world. No matter where you live, you can use these seasons as a starting point for your own exploration of the natural world.

To celebrate this season we will learn about the safflower and read haiku by Basho, Issa, Buson, Matsunaga Teitoku, and Yagi Shokyu-ni.

The Safflower

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is an annual flowering plant native to the Middle East and Asia.(1,2) It is a drought-tolerant plant and prefers climates with predictable rainy seasons.  In order to survive in drier climates, the safflower has developed a taproot system that can descend up to six feet into the earth.(2) The term “taproot” is used to describe the root system that has one dominant thick root that descends directly into the earth with smaller fibrous roots extending from it. (A carrot is a common example of a taproot.) 

The safflower can grow up to 6 feet tall and has leaves that are alternate, lanceolate, and have toothed margins. The flowers of the safflower are yellow, orange, or red and grow in terminal clusters.(3)  Approximately 30 days after blooming the safflower flowers are considered mature.  At this time the flower will turn brown and you can harvest the seeds.  The seeds are small, brown, and oval-shaped.  These seeds are the source of the oil that is used in cooking, cosmetics, and industrial applications.(3)

Dried safflowers are also used to produce red and yellow dyes for wool, silk, or cotton.(3)  

Safflower Morphology

When a safflower plant emerges from the ground it establishes a leaf rosette and then a central stem.  After that stem grows to be about 15 inches high, it develops its first pair of lateral branches. As the plant continues to grow, the lateral branches branch again to produce secondary and tertiary branches. 

Each branch has elongated and serrated leaves that run the length of the stems.  At the end of the stems, these leaves form bracts. From those bracts, buds are formed. 

From the buds, emerge the safflower flower.  This flower, which takes the form of a capitulum will contain between 20 and 150 individual florets.  

The bud at the end of the terminal stem (also known as the terminal bud) will flower first. Then the buds on the secondary and tertiary branches will flower.  Depending on the variety of safflower, it can produce anywhere between 3 to 50 flowers.

Morphology Terms

If you are not a botanist, the terms used to describe the parts of plants may be a little confusing.  As a result, I have included definitions of some of the key terms used in the above section.

  • Bracts – a modified or specialized leaf, especially one associated with a reproductive structure such as a flower. (Wikipedia)
  • Buds – Small lateral or terminal protuberance on the stem of a vascular plant that may develop into a flower, leaf, or shoot. (Brittanica)
  • Capitulum –  a short dense spike in which the flowers are borne directly on a broad, flat peduncle, giving the inflorescence the appearance of a single flower. (Brittanica)
  • Florets – one of the closely clustered small flowers that make up the flower head of a composite flower. (Dictionary.com)
  • Inflorescence –  a cluster of flowers on a branch. This term is used in the definition of Capitulum. (Brittanica)
  • Lateral BranchAny branch that grows from the [stem] or along the length of any other branch. (UC Marin Master Gardner)
  • Morphology– the study of the size, shape, and structure of animals, plants, and microorganisms and of the relationships of their constituent parts. (Brittanica)
  • Rosette –  a circular cluster of leaves growing from the base of a stem. (Dictionary.com)
  • Secondary and tertiary branches – branches that grow off of the lateral branch.
  • Serrated Leaves – having a margin of forward-pointing teeth; having a notched or sawlike edge. (Dictionary.com)
  • Terminal Bud – A bud that terminates the end of a stem or a twig. (New York Botanical Gardens)
  • Peduncle – a stalk bearing a flower or flower cluster or a fructification. This term is used in the definition of Capitulum. (Merriam-Webster)

Seasonal Haiku

In William J. Higginson’s post, The Traditional Seasons of Japanese Poetry he states that May 06 – June 05 is considered “early summer”.  Higginson also says that during this time we are in the lunar month of Deutzia. Deutzia is a genus of flowering plants in the family of Hydrangeaceae.  

In The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words as selected by Kenkichi Yamamoto, early summer flower kigo include “deutzia flower”, “paulownia flower”, “multiflora [rose] blossom”, “lily”, and “peony”.

According to the World Kigo Database, the safflower (benibana) is actually a mid-summer kigo.  This means that it is a little early to use “safflower” as a kigo.

With all these early summer flowers in mind, let’s read some haiku.


clusters of deutzia
at this house without Mother
how disheartening! 
(translated by Takafumi Saito & William R. Nelson)
peony – 
the bee can't bear 
to part. 
(translated by Lucien Stryk
going beyond even
the art of wind and moon: 
peony blossoms.
(translated by David Landis Barnhill)


“the peony was as big as 
This,” Says the little girl
Opening her arms
(translated by R.H. Blyth)
the peony has bloomed!
the whole day
sparrows chirping
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
the god of fortune
and luck dwells here...
a peony!
(translated by David G. Lanoue)

Matsunaga Teitoku (1571 -1653)

it lets one see
snow, moon, and blossoms –all at once,
oh, utsugi!
(translated by H.G. Henderson)

A note about this haiku from the translator: “Here, in May moonlight, the tiny white flowers of the shrub utsugi (Deutzia scabra) gleam like snow.”(4) 

Yagi Shokyu-ni (1712-1781)

The “forget-me” has bloomed, but ah!
I can not forget old days together
(translated by Asataro Miyamori)

A note about this haiku from the translator: “Written on the 13th anniversary of her husband’s death.  Wasuregusa (literally, “forget-me-grass”) is a tiny, ephemeral day-lily.”(4)


the peony bud, 
when opening, 
shoots forth a rainbow 
(translated by Nippon Gakujusu Shinkokai)
after they’ve fallen,
their image remains in the mind –
those peonies
(translated by Steven D. Carter)

Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that incorporates the technique of Zooming as described in The Way of Haiku.  

With this technique, you can either start with a background and then gradually focus (zoom-in) on a particular element in the environment, or start with a particular element and gradually widen focus (zoom-out) onto the background.

I feel like the blooming of flowers naturally lends itself to the technique of zooming.  The flower and its parts can be either the starting point or the ending point for this technique. 

In writing your haiku for this season, try to incorporate a flower that is blooming for you right now.

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!  


  1. “Safflower”: Britannica.com
  2. “Safflower: Wikipedia.com
  3. “Dyeing with Safflower”: Wild Colours
  4. The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology, edited by Faubion Bowers
  5. “Five Techniques for Writing Haiku” The Way of Haiku

Basho’s haiku was retrieved from Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations. Issa’s haiku was retrieved from David G. Lanoue’s HaikuGuy.com and The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology, edited by Faubion Bowers. Buson, Shokyu-ni, and Teitoku’s haiku were retrieved from The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology, edited by Faubion Bowers.

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57 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Safflower Blossoms” (2023)

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    1. HI LaMon,
      Thanks so much for the kind words and sharing a wonderful haiku! I looked up Martagon Lily as they are not familiar to me. Beautiful flowers!

    2. Like Mark, I too had to look up this pretty lily. The image, and sound, of the rushing river, the zoom in to the waking wildflower bed, and then the lily. Just lovely.

    1. Sorry about my fat fingers and mushy brain this morning. I only meant to type “from Basho” once, and now I’ve done it three times!

      1. Too funny! That happens! Thanks so much for the comment and I am glad that you enjoy the selection for this week. Have a good weekend!

    1. Hi Joanna, Thanks so much for the comment! I am glad you enjoyed this week’s post. I hope you have a good weekend and get out to see the flowers!

  1. Mark,
    As always thank you for teaching us new things and allowing us to venture down our own rabbit holes to find out more about your subjects… I played (there are three with notes) here:

    Here’s the first one;

    our first home
    dweller horrified
    floral ‘ants’

    The Peony needs her ants friends to unstick its’ lovely pink petals

    © JP/dh

    1. I like how you played with safflower/saffron, Jules. My lazy brain automatically went to saffron with Mark’s post today, until I read closely and remembered how rare saffron really is and not native to Japan.

      1. The Amish here grow autumn saffron crocus. I tried it once… but you need so much space and saffron is only the three staimin of a single crocus. I’m not sure what the draw is for saffron. It does turn things yellow, but I’m not that much of a foodie that I can live without it. 🙂

  2. More beautiful peony haiku from the masters, Mark! Here’s an older one which appears to employ zooming in and zooming out? Perhaps juxtaposition and the cut as well? Dunno.

    I’m stopped by roses
    still in our house you suffer
    their carefree beauty

    1. Hi Mary Jo,
      There are so many great peony haiku and your rose haiku is great too! I think that one seems to be a zooming out haiku. Although, now that I am thinking about it, it does seem to zoom back in to an individual.
      For me, the zooming is all about the sense of movement. And you create sense of movement here!

    2. I found your haiku quite moving . The way it implied “stopping to smell the roses” but also that that scent might cause discomfort to someone in the house.

      1. Thank you, Eavonka. Yes, someone is in the house and for some reason not able “to smell the roses.” I hadn’t thought of your reason! 🙂

    3. Mary Jo,

      Roses are out and about here. But I can see how someone sad can’t abide in another’s happiness – For awhile we had an elder live with us. There is a strain when expectations for living happily are different.

    1. Very nice! This one has a very classic haiku feel. I do like the use of deutzia! You don’t see them in haiku very often, Thanks so much for adding your work to the conversation!

      1. My best friend gave me a deutzia start 20 years ago and it is now the reigning princess of early summer, and my granddaughter’s favorite

    2. Love this…very visual. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing deutzia. I looked them up, but even after looking at photos, I still don’t know exactly what they look like. ~Nan

  3. its largest
    petals unfolding
    magnolia tree

    May is my favorite month in Los Angeles County. It is a time of resplendent blossoms. Most importantly, the Jacaranda trees, Bougainvillea, and the Magnolias. I had never seen a real Magnolia tree until I moved here. I had no clue that their flowers (the enormous white ones, I mean) were larger than both my hands cupped together. It is always a glorious surprise to come upon them if the tree is short enough to get a full glimpse of their magnificence.

    1. Eavonka,
      Magnolias always remind me of cocoons opening up into butterflies. Ours are not that large and they are pink blossoms (and slippery when the petals fall off and get wet). ~nan

      1. Such a great analogy and probably why I adore them so much! The pink ones exist here, but they are not nearly as large (as you mention)

    2. Hi Eavonka, Thanks for sharing your haiku and your experiences in with the Magnolias. I don’t think I have ever seen a Magnolia flower as large as you describe. The ones I am familiar with are probably more like the ones Nan describes. Thanks again and I hope you have a good weekend!

      1. I’ve seen huge pink magnolia blossoms. They’re beautiful! I saw them for the first time in warmer climates than Wisconsin, but recently have seen them here as well.

    1. I think these are very much zooming in and out haiku. They are also quite wonderful! Two of my favorite flowers too.

      1. Great, thanks, E, for the vote of confidence. I just write; I don’t usually think about the technique although I did today. Yeah, I love the fragrance of both. I am still waiting for my peonies to bloom. They came from a start from my grandmother’s peonies. Her peonies at her grave haven’t bloomed, either. I think mine will be late this year although I saw some peonies blooming already.

    2. Hi Nan, What wonderful haiku for this season. I agree with Eavonka that they meet the zooming challenge!
      Interestingly, because of the elevation difference between where my house is and where my work is, the lilacs by my work have bloomed and the ones at the house are still a couple of weeks out. I find that stuff kind of amazing. Thank you for sharing and I hope you have a good weekend.

      1. Hi Mark, thanks for the compliment on my haiku.
        Recently, I drove home (south of where I live now) and noticed that so many flowers are blooming there and are only buds here. Yet, I also saw some peonies blooming about halfway between here and there despite some not blooming there either. Goofy, isn’t it? I hope you have a good holiday.

  4. Hello Mark:

    I enjoyed reading about the safflower and all the poems. I came across your blog as Nancy Brady had posted it on Haiku Dialogue, a little while ago. Thank-you Nancy:)

    safflower blossom
    hiding drops of oil …
    my vegan bolognese

  5. Hi Mark, I read the prompt:

    a large rose
    outside my window….purple
    petals at her feet

    1. Hi Madeline! Thank you so much for joining the conversation. What a wonderful trio of haiku! The Bolognese one is my favorite. What a wonderful shift in direction.
      Thanks again for sharing your work with us. I hope you have a good weekend.

  6. Hi Mark! Thank-you for the warm welcome and the compliments! I am enjoying the zooming process! Hope you have a good week-end too!

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