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Small Scabious

Scabiosa columbaria

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

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

Blue, 5 petals
The long-stalked domed flowerheads are light bluish-purple. The flowers are a lighter blue than the similar looking and more common Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis). Field Scabious also has 4 petaled flowers rather than 5. The flowerheads of Small Scabious are slightly smaller than those of Field Scabious and the bracts are much thinner. Flowers measure up to 2.5cm across. Pollinated by bees, butterflies and moths.
An achene (dry, one-seeded fruit). The seeds are ripe in August and September.
The leaves are pinnately lobed with the uppermost leaves being the most divided. Perennial.
Other Names:
Dove Pincushions, Dove Scabious, Lilac-flowered Scabious, Pigeon's Scabious, Pincushion Flower.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Scabiosa columbaria, also known as small scabious or dove 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 30-60 cm tall. The plant has small, pale blue, pink or white 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. The species name "columbaria" means "dove-like" which refers to the shape of the flowers.


Small Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria) is a delightful wildflower that belongs to the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae). It is native to Europe and Western Asia and has been naturalized in North America. This herbaceous perennial plant produces clusters of blue-violet flowers on long stems from late spring to late summer. The flowers are a valuable source of nectar and pollen for butterflies, bees, and other insects, making it a popular choice for wildflower gardens.

Description and Habitat

Small Scabious grows to a height of 30-60cm and has a basal rosette of leaves that are deeply lobed and dark green. The stem is erect and branched, and the leaves along the stem are smaller and less lobed than the basal leaves. The flowers are borne in dense clusters, or heads, that are about 2.5-3cm in diameter. Each head consists of many small, tubular flowers with five petals that are fused together into a tube. The flowers are usually blue-violet, but they can also be pink or white. The blooms are very attractive to butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.

Small Scabious prefers well-drained soil and is often found in dry, grassy meadows, rocky areas, and open woodlands. It grows in full sun to partial shade and is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, including sandy and clay soils. This plant is hardy and can survive in temperatures as low as -20°C.

Benefits and Uses

Small Scabious is a popular plant for wildlife gardens, and its nectar-rich flowers attract a range of beneficial insects, including bees, butterflies, and moths. The flowers also provide a valuable source of food for birds, including finches and goldfinches, which feed on the seeds.

In addition to its wildlife benefits, Small Scabious has a long history of medicinal use. The plant was traditionally used to treat a range of ailments, including digestive disorders, skin conditions, and respiratory problems. Today, it is still used in herbal remedies for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Small Scabious is also a popular ornamental plant and is often grown in cottage gardens and wildflower meadows. Its delicate blue-violet flowers are a beautiful addition to any garden, and the plant is easy to grow and care for.

Cultivation and Propagation

Small Scabious is a hardy and easy-to-grow plant that is suitable for a range of garden settings. It prefers well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. The plant can be propagated from seed, which should be sown in late spring or early summer. The seeds should be sown in a seed tray or directly into the ground, and they will usually germinate within two to three weeks. Once the seedlings have emerged, they should be thinned to a spacing of around 15-20cm to allow for proper growth and development.

Small Scabious can also be propagated by division in the spring or fall. The plant should be dug up and divided into smaller sections, which can then be replanted in new locations.

In conclusion, Small Scabious is a delightful wildflower that offers a range of benefits to wildlife, herbal medicine, and ornamental gardening. Its delicate blue-violet flowers and attractive foliage make it a valuable addition to any garden, and its easy cultivation and propagation make it an ideal choice for both novice and experienced gardeners alike.

More Information

Small Scabious is a hardy plant that requires minimal care once established. It is relatively drought-tolerant and can survive periods of dry weather, although regular watering during the growing season can help to promote healthy growth and flowering.

Pruning is not necessary, but deadheading can help to promote additional blooms and prolong the flowering period. Deadheading involves removing spent flowers before they have a chance to form seeds, which redirects the plant's energy into producing more flowers.

Small Scabious is not prone to pests or diseases, but it can be susceptible to slugs and snails, which can damage the foliage and flowers. These pests can be controlled by using slug pellets or by manually removing them from the plants.

Small Scabious is a versatile plant that can be used in a range of garden settings, from wildflower meadows to formal borders. It can be planted in large groups for a bold splash of color or used as a filler plant to add interest and texture to mixed borders. Its attractive foliage and delicate flowers also make it an ideal choice for use in cut flower arrangements.

Small Scabious is a valuable addition to any garden, offering a range of benefits to both wildlife and gardeners. Its delicate blue-violet flowers, attractive foliage, and ease of cultivation make it a popular choice for wildflower gardens, herbaceous borders, and cut flower arrangements. Whether you are a novice gardener or an experienced horticulturist, Small Scabious is a plant that is sure to delight and inspire.

Small Scabious is a plant that has inspired many legends and myths throughout history. In medieval times, it was believed that Small Scabious had magical properties and was used to ward off evil spirits and protect against witchcraft. In fact, the plant was sometimes referred to as the "Devil's bit" due to the belief that it had been bitten off by the devil, who was envious of its healing powers.

In addition to its magical properties, Small Scabious has also been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The plant was used to treat a range of ailments, including digestive disorders, respiratory problems, and skin conditions. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties are still being studied today, and it is being investigated for its potential as a treatment for a range of modern ailments.

Small Scabious is also a popular plant in folklore and literature. In Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the juice of Small Scabious was said to be used to cure love's wounds. In the Harry Potter series, Small Scabious is used as an ingredient in various potions, including the Draught of Peace, which is said to calm the drinker and help them sleep.

In modern times, Small Scabious has become a symbol of the importance of biodiversity and the need to protect our natural environment. As a wildflower, it provides a valuable source of food and habitat for a range of insects and other wildlife, including bees, butterflies, and birds. By including Small Scabious in our gardens and landscapes, we can help to support these important species and contribute to the preservation of our natural heritage.

In conclusion, Small Scabious is a plant with a rich history and many uses. From its magical properties to its medicinal benefits and its value as a symbol of biodiversity, Small Scabious is a plant that has captured the imagination and inspired generations. Whether you are a gardener, a naturalist, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the natural world, Small Scabious is a plant that is sure to delight and inspire.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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