DEVIL'S-BIT SCABIOUS

Succisa pratensis

Teasel Family [Dipsacaceae]  

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept month8Oct

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8blue
 
inner
inner8purple
 
morph
morph8hemizygo
 
petals
petalsZ4
 
type
typeZclustered
 
stem
stem8round
 
sex
sexZfemale
  gyno -
sex
sexZbisexual
dioecious

23rd Aug 2007, Orrest Head, overlooking Windermere, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Up to a metre tall, an open plant with a few thin branches. Upper stem leaves are few and far between, narrower than lower ones, and sometimes toothed. The plant is gynodioecious, meaning there are female plants and bisexual plants, which accounts for some differences in the flowers on different plants. It's actual sexuality is quite complicated with many permutations and half-way houses. See Sex


24th Aug 2007, Chinley Churn, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
In ideal conditions it spreads, but the population is never very dense, always fairly well spaced out out from each other. The only reason the above seems dense is because of the telephoto view and subsequent fore-shortening of distance.


2nd Sept 2011, Dol Goch YHA, Elenwydd Wilderness, Mid-Wales. Photo: © RWD
Most leaves are below half-height so the lower leaves are hidden by the long grass it tends to grow amongst, but this specimen presented itself nicely on the edge of a banking.


30th Aug 2010, Nob End, Clammerclough, Bolton. Photo: © RWD
But few stem leaves.


31st July 2007, Gait Barrows, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Flowers solitary at the end of stalks. Side-branches in opposite pairs at set at ±60° in an arrangement not un-like that of Common Valerian and other Valerians. These still in bud. Stem round and with white short downy hairs. Belongs to the Teasel Family, but un-like Small Teasel the pointed bracts are not sharp.


31st July 2007, Gait Barrows, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Larger green bracts around the edge of the flower; shorter brown-tipped ones amidst the flowers-to-be.


30th Aug 2010, Nob End, Clammerclough, Bolton. Photo: © RWD
Un-opened flowers look like boxing gloves.


23rd Aug 2007, Orrest Head, overlooking Windermere, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
 Without anthers this must be a female only plant, which are smaller, at 1.5 - 2.5cm across. The flowers have four petals and four reddish structures within (sterile stamens?).


30th Aug 2010, Nob End, Clammerclough, Bolton. Photo: © RWD
 Female flowers. The long lilac-coloured sticks with a disc on the end are the stigma and style, respectively. Four white threads coming from each floret are filaments without anthers.


30th Aug 2010, Nob End, Clammerclough, Bolton. Photo: © RWD
 Female flowers.


23rd Aug 2007, Orrest Head, overlooking Windermere, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
 Male flowers with anthers. The sepal-like bracts are long and thin and in several successively shorter layers behind.


31st Aug 2015, extinct railway, Newbiggin. Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
 Male flowers with pink anthers.


31st Aug 2015, extinct railway, Newbiggin, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
  The flower head consists of a slightly flattened hemi-sphere with many deep-blue violet flowers amidst the bracts. Four anthers per flower, mauve coloured lozenges on thin white stamens held up well clear of the petals. The similar Field Scabious has paler and bluish-lilac flowers. With anthers and styles, this must be a bisexual plant, since there are no male only plants. Bisexual plants are larger, at 2 - 3cm across. However, the styles are not as long as they are in the female plants depicted a few photos back.


31st Aug 2015, extinct railway, Newbiggin, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
  The rear of the flower with radial pink anthers showing.


25th Sept 2008, Hawes Water, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
 A fruiting head without the petals. The green mesas (ovary) are the fruits, the 5 short black 'eyelashes' being the remains of the individual floret sepals. (There are twice as many more (i.e. 10) 'eyelashes' to each floret on Field Scabious and moreover they are white and splay out at an angle of perhaps 45°). The stem hairs on Field Scabious are not appressed, but rather stick outwards.


30th Aug 2010, Nob End, Clammerclough, Bolton. Photo: © RWD
 


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A few leaves have a few teeth, usually nearer the stem rather than nearer the end.


31st July 2007, Gait Barrows, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Lower leaves in opposite pairs on long tapering stalks and un-like Field Scabious are un-lobed.


31st July 2007, Gait Barrows, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Most leaves are untoothed. they have a prominent white vein down the centre which gets fainter and narrower as it approaches the tip. The stems of the leaves have gradually tapering wings.


23rd Aug 2007, Orrest Head, overlooking Windermere, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A toothed stem leaf.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The flowers peel off in opposite pairs just above the opposite pair of leaves. They do this alternately up the stem in quadrature and in a fractal manner. These are grossly un-ripe this early on.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Has long white hairs, dense in places.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Three more pairs in quadrature at the very top. They will grow apart as the stems grow much longer.


Superficial resemblance to : Sheep's-bit but sheep's-bit is a member of the Bellflower Family whereas Devil's-bit Scabious a member of the Teasel Family and grows twice as high (up to 1 meter) and the flowers are not azure but a darker mauve/purple. Devil's-bit Scabious is the only plant within the Genus Succisa.

The differences between Devil's-bit Scabious and Field Scabious are:

  • Field Scabious has bluish-lilac flowers whereas Devil's-bit usually has dark blue-purple flowers (but sometimes pink)
  • Field Scabious has flowers of un-equal size with larger petals towards the perimeter of the flower whereas Devil's-bit has flowers nominally of equal size.
  • Field Scabious has leaves which are markedly toothed but with few teeth, whereas with Devil's-bit the leaves are mostly lanceolate and un-toothed (although some have small teeth near the end). Also, the lower leaves of Field Scabious are roundly lobed.

Distinguishing Feature : the lanceolate leaves, the downy stem up to 1m height, and the small deep-blue hemi-spherical flower head.

Apparently, the roots are very short compared to the 1m tallness of the plant, although quite how they know this without digging it up is beyond your Author. For this reason, it acquired its name: the Devil must have bitten off the root [they must have had wild imaginations in those days]. The few stem leaves are often toothed.

It is gynodioecious, with a mixture of bisexual flowerheads on some plants and female-only flowerheads on other plants. The female flowerheads are smaller.

Note that Small Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria), Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) and Giant Scabious (Cephalaria gigantea) all belong in differing genera (although all four reside in the same Dipsaacaceae family).

A blue dye can be extracted from this plant.


  Succisa pratensis  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Dipsacaceae  

Distribution
family8Teasel family8Dipsacaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Succisa
Succisa
(Devil's-bit Scabious)

DEVIL'S-BIT SCABIOUS

Succisa pratensis

Teasel Family [Dipsacaceae]  

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