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Sweet Scabious

Scabiosa atropurpurea

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Dipsacaceae (Teasel)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Cliffs, gardens, grassland, meadows, seaside.

Purple, 4 petals
Flowers are usually dark purple (sometimes lilac) and appear inside a domed head (flat underneath). Flowers measure about 5cm wide (2 inches).
A small, oval, brown achene.
A short-lived perennial with oval, spoon-shaped leaves. The leaves are also coarsely toothed. Wiry stems. An established plant in Cornwall and east Kent but elsewhere Sweet Scabious is encountered as a garden escape (in the British Isles).
Sweet Scabious is fragrant.
Other Names:
Dark Scabious, Egyptian Rose, Grandmother's Pincushion, Mournful Widow, Mourning Bride, Mourningbride, Pincushion Flower, Pincushion Flower, Pincushions, Widow's Flower.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Scabiosa atropurpurea, also known as pincushion flower or dark scabious, is a perennial herb that is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is a member of the Dipsacaceae family and typically grows to be about 60-90 cm tall. The plant has small, dark purple, blue or pink flowers that bloom in the summer and early autumn. The plant has pinnate leaves. It is commonly found in meadows, pastures, and grassland. It is also used in cultivation as wildflowers, and for ornamental purposes. The plant is also a popular nectar source for pollinators like bees and butterflies. It is easy to grow from seed and it does well in full sun and well-drained soil.


Sweet Scabious, also known as Scabiosa atropurpurea, is a charming annual flower that belongs to the honeysuckle family. It is native to North Africa and Europe, but is now commonly found throughout the world. Sweet Scabious is known for its vibrant colors and attractive, textured petals that make it a popular choice for gardens, borders, and cut flower arrangements.

Appearance and Growth

Sweet Scabious is a relatively low-growing plant, typically reaching between 30 and 60 centimeters in height. Its leaves are dark green and deeply lobed, and its flowers are borne on long, thin stems. The flowers themselves are typically between 5 and 7 centimeters in diameter and come in a range of colors, including deep purples, pinks, and blues.

Sweet Scabious is relatively easy to grow, making it a popular choice for gardeners of all skill levels. It prefers full sun or partial shade and well-draining soil. It can be grown from seed, either directly in the ground or started indoors and transplanted later. Sweet Scabious typically blooms from late spring to early fall, attracting bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to the garden.

Cultural Significance

Sweet Scabious has a long history of use in traditional medicine, where it has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory issues, headaches, and fever. It is also believed to have a calming effect on the mind and body, and is sometimes used as a natural sedative.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Sweet Scabious has also been used in a number of cultural contexts throughout history. In the language of flowers, Sweet Scabious is said to symbolize humility and gratitude, making it a popular choice for bouquets and other floral arrangements. In some cultures, it has also been used to ward off evil spirits and promote good luck.

Sweet Scabious is a beautiful and versatile flower that is sure to add color and texture to any garden or floral arrangement. Its easy-to-grow nature and cultural significance make it a popular choice for gardeners and florists around the world. Whether you are looking to add a pop of color to your garden or create a meaningful bouquet, Sweet Scabious is a flower that is sure to delight.

More Information

Beyond its visual appeal and cultural significance, Sweet Scabious is also an important plant for pollinators. Its brightly-colored flowers are a source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, and other insects, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking to create a pollinator-friendly garden.

In addition to its traditional medicinal uses, Sweet Scabious is also being studied for its potential as a source of natural compounds with therapeutic properties. Research has suggested that extracts from the plant may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, making it a promising candidate for the development of new treatments for a range of health conditions.

When it comes to using Sweet Scabious in the garden, there are a variety of different ways to incorporate this versatile plant. It can be used in borders, mixed in with other flowering plants, or planted in containers. It also makes an excellent cut flower, with long-lasting blooms that can be used in bouquets, floral arrangements, or as single stems in bud vases.

Sweet Scabious is a delightful plant that has a lot to offer for both gardeners and flower enthusiasts alike. With its attractive flowers, easy-to-grow nature, and cultural and medicinal significance, it is a plant that is well worth considering for any garden or floral project.

One of the interesting facts about Sweet Scabious is that it gets its name from its use in traditional medicine. The plant was believed to have healing properties for a variety of skin conditions, including scabies, which is a contagious skin condition caused by mites. In fact, the word "scabious" comes from the Latin word "scabies," which means "to scratch."

Sweet Scabious is also a popular plant for cut flower arrangements because of its long, slender stems and vibrant blooms. The flowers are often used in bridal bouquets and other formal arrangements, as well as in more casual arrangements for home or office decor.

When it comes to caring for Sweet Scabious, it is important to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and to deadhead the spent flowers regularly to encourage more blooms. The plant is also relatively pest-resistant, making it a low-maintenance addition to any garden.

Finally, it is worth noting that Sweet Scabious is not to be confused with the related plant Scabiosa columbaria, which is also known as Pincushion Flower. While the two plants are similar in appearance, they have different growing requirements and medicinal uses, so it is important to choose the right plant for your needs.