Devil’s bit scabious is a clump-forming perennial, growing slowly and spreading into sizeable patches of broad, lance-shaped leaves. The flower stems arise in late summer, to produce clouds of flowers above the foliage. These are best described as perfect little pincushions, tight domes of tiny flowers with their little stigmas sticking out. Opening from July until October.
In the wild, Devil’s-bit Scabious is not uncommon, especially on soils that are low in nutrients and mildly acidic. It can be found growing in damp meadows, on woodland rides and edges, in heathlands and around acidic bogs. In upland areas it grows on cliff ledges and rocky streamsides. Although still widespread, it has declined in parts of England nearly to the point of becoming threatened.
In our gardens it grows best in poor soil in a border or wildflower meadow. It will grow in dry soil but avoid very hot, sun-baked spots.
The pincushion-like flower heads attract a wide variety of bees and insects including the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth. It is also the food plant for the declining Marsh fritillary butterfly, which is classified as a priority species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.