Greater Knapweed

©Dominic Alves

Greater knapweed

Scientific name: Centaurea scabiosa
The ragged-edged, purple flower heads of Greater knapweed bloom on sunny chalk grasslands and clifftops, and along woodland rides. They attract clouds of butterflies.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 1m

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

June to September

About

Greater knapweed is a thistle-like plant that can be found on chalk downlands, roadside verges, woodland rides, hedgerows and clifftops. It is more restricted in its distribution than its close relative, Common knapweed, being found mainly in England on chalky soils. It is in bloom from June to September and is a huge favourite of all kinds of butterflies, including Common blues, Marbled whites and Meadow browns, and is sometimes covered in these species.

How to identify

The large, bright pink-purple 'flowers' of Greater Kanpweed are actually composite flower heads made up of many small 'florets' (tiny flowers). The large, ragged, star-like ones sit around the edge of the flower head and are sterile, serving only to attract insects; while the smaller, densely packed florets in the middle are fertile.

Distribution

Scattered across the UK, but predominantly grows in England.

Did you know?

Knapweeds make a good addition to a wildlife garden, attracting a variety of insects and even some countryside butterflies. They prefer sunny borders and can grow much larger than they do in the wild.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland habitats sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. Careful grazing with traditional breeds, hay-cutting at the right time and scrub clearance are just some of the ways grasslands are kept in good condition. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.