There are several species of scabious – and I love them all – but the scabious I’m seeing most in my local nature reserves is the Devil’s-bit (Succisa pratensis).
Apparently, the scabious name is due to the rough stalks of these plants and dates to times past when scabious was used to treat scabies because people believed in the ‘signature of all things’ – not Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book but that of Jakob Böhme, who presented the idea, in 1622, that God had imprinted prescriptions for human ailments in the shapes and forms of medicinal plants – thus, rough stalk = rough skin. The ‘Devil’s-bit’ comes from the fact that this plant’s roots have a short, bitten off look.
Massed displays of Devil’s-bit scabious lend a purplish tinge to the landscape but it’s the flowers I love best. They begin as fairies’ pincushions and bloom into luscious globular gloriousness.