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Shepherd's Needle

Scandix pecten-veneris

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
40 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, sea cliffs, seaside, wasteland.

White, 5 petals
The umbel's of Shepherd's Needle 7 to 9cm across. Only a few umbels are present on each plant (1 to 3). The upper bracts are deeply toothed and there are no lower bracts at all. Pollinated by insects.
Easy to identify when seen in fruit as this plant has long, needle-like fruit. The fruits measures between 3 and 7cm in length.
An almost hairless annual flower with fresh green, 2 to 3-pinnate leaves. The leaflets are finely divided. Grows on neutral and alkali soils in sunny places.
Other Names:
Stork's Needle, Venus' Comb.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Scandix pecten-veneris, also known as shepherd's needle or Venus' comb, is a herbaceous perennial plant in the Apiaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and typically grows to be about 40 centimeters tall. The plant is known for its delicate, fern-like leaves and small white flowers that bloom in the spring and early summer. It is often used in traditional medicine and as an ornamental plant in gardens.


Shepherd's Needle, also known as Scandix pecten-veneris, is a wildflower that belongs to the Apiaceae family. It is a delicate, white-flowered plant that grows in sandy soils and meadows in many parts of Europe, including the Mediterranean region. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics and properties of Shepherd's Needle and its significance in the natural world.

Physical characteristics

Shepherd's Needle is a small annual plant that grows up to 40 centimeters in height. Its stem is slender, straight, and branched, and its leaves are divided into fine segments. The plant's white flowers are small and delicate, growing in clusters on short stalks. The flowers are followed by round, flattened fruits, each containing a single seed.

Habitat and distribution

Shepherd's Needle prefers sandy soils and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including meadows, roadsides, fields, and waste ground. It is a common sight in many parts of Europe, including the Mediterranean region, the British Isles, and Central Europe. It is also found in some parts of Asia and North Africa.

Significance in the natural world

Shepherd's Needle is an important plant for pollinators, especially bees and butterflies. Its white flowers provide a valuable source of nectar, and its leaves and stems are an important food source for the larvae of some moth species. The plant's seeds are also a food source for birds and small mammals.

In addition to its ecological importance, Shepherd's Needle has been used for medicinal purposes for many centuries. It was traditionally used as a diuretic and to treat digestive disorders, and it was also thought to have mild sedative properties. However, it should be noted that the plant is toxic in large quantities and should not be consumed without proper medical guidance.

Cultural significance

Shepherd's Needle has been mentioned in literature and folklore throughout history. In Greek mythology, it was associated with the goddess Venus and was thought to have medicinal properties. In medieval Europe, the plant was believed to ward off evil spirits and was used in various protective rituals. Today, it is often included in wildflower gardens and is appreciated for its delicate beauty.

Shepherd's Needle, with its delicate white flowers and slender stems, is a plant that has captured the imagination of people throughout history. Its importance as a food source for wildlife and a valuable source of nectar for pollinators highlights its ecological significance, while its cultural significance underscores the deep connection that humans have with the natural world. As we continue to learn more about the value of our natural environment, Shepherd's Needle remains an important reminder of the interconnectedness of all living things.

More Information

Shepherd's Needle has also been used for various purposes throughout history. The plant was traditionally used as a dye, with the seeds producing a red color and the roots producing a yellow color. In some cultures, the plant was also used as a flavoring agent for soups and stews.

In addition to its cultural and medicinal uses, Shepherd's Needle has also been studied for its potential as a source of bioactive compounds. Recent research has identified several bioactive compounds in the plant, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and terpenoids. These compounds have been shown to have various health benefits, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.

Despite its potential health benefits, Shepherd's Needle is not commonly used in modern medicine. This may be due to the plant's toxicity in large quantities, as well as the fact that there are more effective and reliable sources of many of the bioactive compounds found in the plant.

In conclusion, Shepherd's Needle is a fascinating plant with a rich history and a diverse range of uses. Its delicate beauty, ecological significance, and cultural importance make it a valuable part of the natural world. While its medicinal properties and potential as a source of bioactive compounds are still being studied, Shepherd's Needle remains an important reminder of the beauty and complexity of the natural world, and the many ways in which humans have interacted with it over the course of history.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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