Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Devil's-bit Scabious

Devils-bit Scabious

Scientific name: Succisa pratensis

Devils-bit Scabious is a flowering plant in the family Dipsacaceae. It differs from other similar species in that it has 4 lobed flowers, whereas Small Scabious and Field Scabious have 5 lobes.

Its leaves are un-lobed (unlike Field scabious), and are arranged in opposite pairs. The plant can be confused with Greater Knapweed; however Knapweed has leaves that are alternate, not opposite.

It prefers moist soil: damp meadows and woods, lowland heath, marshy areas; but will tolerate drier conditions. Male and female flowers are produced on different heads, the female being smaller. Flowers from June until October.

It is a good source of nectar and is the foodplant of the Marsh Fritillary butterfly and the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth


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 short black root was in folk tales bitten off by the devil, angry at the plant's ability to cure these ailments, in anger against the Virgin Mary, or as part of some 'devilish plot'.

Information and photograph courtesy of