Scabiouses

Giant Scabious Small Scabious Field Scabious Macedonian Scabious

What are they?

The scabiouses are closely related to the teasels and appear to have large and showy flowers. on closer inspection, however, it can be seen that these large flowers are in fact made up of a tight cluster of many, much smaller flowers in a way that is similar to members of the daisy family (Asteraceae). Each flower is tubular, opening out at the mouth into a series of lobes. These tubes are made up of fused petals which collectively are known as a corolla. Scabiouses differ from members of the Asteraceae in that they do not have a series of leaf-like bracts forming a tubular base around the outside of the flowerhead. Instead, they have a ring of sepal-like bracts that spread out from beneath the flattened base of the flowerhead. These plants (together with the teasels) were formerly placed in a family called the Dipsacaceae, but more recently they have been merged with the valerians in the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae).

Where are they found?

Our native species are most often found in grassy places, most often in relatively dry places on chalky soils, with Devil's-bit Scabious being different on favouring damp, acid soils. Introduced plants may turn up occasionally in urban places.

Identification

These plants can appear superficially very similar, but a check of the number of lobes on the corolla and details of the leaf shape should make them fairly straightforward to tell apart. All of our native species typically have blue-mauve flowers, but all may occasionally be pink or white. Note that Scabiosa species have a five-lobed corolla and a membranous envelope around each flower (the latter is obvious as the seedheads develop), while Knautia species have a four-lobed corolla and no membranous envelope around each flower.



Field Scabious      Knautia arvensis

Native. Widespread and found through much of East Anglia, being most common in grassland and on roadside verges in chalky soils. Flowers June to September. A rather variable plant, according to growing conditions, but may grow to around 80cm tall in ranker grass. Flowers with four lobes to the corolla (two short and three long) and leaves rather large and coarser than those of other native scabiouses.

Field Scabious Field Scabious Field Scabious Field Scabious
Habit
Flowerhead
Flowerhead
Sepal-like bracts
Field Scabious Field Scabious Field Scabious
Leaf
Leaf
Seedhead without
papery membranes


Small Scabious      Scabiosa columbaria

Native. Found in grassland and on roadside verges on chalky soils, but rare in the east of our region, becoming more frequent westward. Flowers July to August. A rather variable plant, according to growing conditions. May grow to around 80cm tall in ranker grass but often much shorter in its favoured grassland habitats. Flowers with five lobes to the corolla (two short and three long). Leaves very variable, with basal leaves toothed on the margins and stem leaves very finely cut into linear segments. Note that garden cultivars of this species, with larger flowers and broader leaves, are grown and may occasionally turn up as garden throw-outs.

Small Scabious Small Scabious Small Scabious Small Scabious
Flowerhead
Flowerhead
Flower
Sepal-like bracts
Small Scabious Small Scabious Small Scabious Small Scabious
Basal leaf
Lower stem leaves
Upper stem leaf
Seedhead with
papery membranes


Devil's-bit Scabious      Succisa pratensis

Native. A plant of well-managed, non-improved, grasslands on damp, usually slightly acidic soils. More frequent along Norfolk's river valleys than elsewhere in the region. Flowers July to October. Flowers with four lobes to the corolla (one short and three long), the flowerheads smaller but on longer stalks than those of our other native species. Leaves rather variable but typically entire and not cut into lobes.

Devil's-bit Scabious Devil's-bit Scabious Devil's-bit Scabious Devil's-bit Scabious
Habit
Habit
Flowerhead
Sepal-like bracts
Devil's-bit Scabious Devil's-bit Scabious Devil's-bit Scabious Devil's-bit Scabious
Pink form
Basal leaf
Leaf
Leaf


Macedonian Scabious      Knautia macedonica

Introduced as a garden ornamental from eastern Europe and occasionally appearing as a short-lived escape or throw-out. Flowers July to October. Flowers with four lobes to the corolla (one short and three long). Leaves very similar to those of Field Scabious, but flower colour readily tells them apart.

Macedonian Scabious Macedonian Scabious Macedonian Scabious Macedonian Scabious
Habit
Flowerhead
Flowerhead
Sepal-like bracts
Macedonian Scabious Macedonian Scabious
Leaf
Leaf


Giant Scabious      Cephalaria gigantea

Introduced as a garden ornamental from Asia Minor and occasionally appearing as a short-lived escape or throw-out. Flowers July to August. A tall, clump-forming perennial which may grow to 2-3m in height. Flowers with four lobes to the corolla (one short and three long). Leaves rather stiff and coarsely toothed and lobed.

Giant Scabious Giant Scabious Giant Scabious Giant Scabious
Habit
Flowerhead
Flowers
Leaf


Sheep's-bit      Jasione montana

Native in acid grassland. Very local in East Anglia, being mostly confined to Breckland and coastal dunes and heaths. Flowers May to September. A tiny plant that may be easily overlooked in rough grass but for its button of bright blue, five-petalled flowers, carried in a tightly clustered head. Note that this species is not a scabious (though it is called one in the older books) but it rather resembles them. It is a member of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) and differs from the scabiouses in its much smaller flowerheads and in its flowers, which have five, equal-sized and strap-shaped petals.

Sheep's-bit Sheep's-bit Sheep's-bit Sheep's-bit
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Sheep's-bit Sheep's-bit Sheep's-bit
Sepals
Stem and leaves
Leaf