Devils Bit - Scabious - Succisa pratensis - Purple Hebrides Wildflowers

Devils Bit - Purple Scabious Wildflowers Hebrides

Scabious - Western Isles Wildflowers
Purple wildflowers - Western Isles - Hebrides Flowers.

This lovely plant a perennial herb produces lovely flowers from July until October. It likes damp moist conditions

Scabious has rounded, pincushion-like and violet-blue or blue to purple flowerheads.

Male and female flowers are produced on different heads. The female flowers are smaller.

The flowers grow in threes on stems about 30cm tall. The plant produces low-growing rosettes of narrow leaves.

This perennial herb produces beautiful flowers from August to October, which shed their seed a month later

Bees - Hoverflies - Butterflies Like The Devils Bit Flowers
Devil's-bit scabious provides nectar for hoverflies, bees and butterflies, and is famously the larval food plant of the rare marsh fritillary. This butterfly has undergone a rapid decline in distribution and numbers.

Medicinal Uses Around The Time of The Plague
Species of scabious were used to treat Scabies, and other afflictions of the skin including sores caused by the Bubonic Plague. The word scabies comes from the Latin word for scratch (scabere).


The stem is simple - that is, not branched below, but branched above. The flowers stalk is long reaching up to a foot or 18 inches in height. Stem is round and with white short downy hairs

The smooth leaves are egg-shaped at the base. The stem-leaves are linear and arranged in opposite pair and are are long & oval. The Upper stem leaves are few and far between, narrower than lower ones, and sometimes toothed

(The leaves differ from those of Field Scabious which are dark green, hairy and deeply lobed.)


Click pictures below for larger photographs

Flowerhead is hemispherical

The tall-flowered stems of this plant can be seen in the summer are easily recognized by the mode of branching of the flowering stems. The stem is simple - that is, not branched below, but branched above. The smooth leaves are hairy - egg-shaped at the base. The stem-leaves are linear.

The flowerhead of the Devil's Bit is hemispherical, there are between 50 - 80 florets all one size, 50-80, they are easily seen and in the summer attract many insects.

Anthers and Stigmas
The anthers ripen first, and anthers and stigmas ripen separately which means that it is cross-pollinated

Devils Bit - Name Derivation
Devil's-bit scabious is so named because its roots end abruptly - in times gone by people said that this was as though they had been bitten off by the devil.

The plant is gynodioecious, there are female plants and bisexual plants, which accounts for some differences in the flowers on different plants.
Hebrides Wildflowers - Devils Bit
Devils Bit - Scabious

Identification Tips
The plant can be confused with Greater Knapweed; however Knapweed has leaves that are alternate, not opposite.

Though scabious does spread, the population is never very dense, always fairly well spaced out.

Field scabious & Devil’s-bit scabious are both members of the teasel family. Devils Bit Scaious (sometimes called small scabious) is as the name suggests smaller, slimmer and less hairy and the flowers have five not four petal lobes. Devil’s-bit scabious has dark, un-toothed, broad-lanceolate leaves.





Field Scabious has bluish-lilac flowers whereas Devils bit usually has dark blue-purple flowers (but sometimes pink) single field scabious plant can produce around 2,000 seeds and the seeds can remain in the soil for a number of years.
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