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Field Scabious

Knautia arvensis

  • Name also: Field Scabiosa
  • Family: Honeysuckle Family – Caprifoliaceae
    (formerly Teasel Family – Dipsacaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock long, branching.
  • Height: 30–80 cm (12–32 in.). Stem upper part branching, with short and quite rough hairs.
  • Flower: Inflorescence a flower-like, flattish capitulum, 3–4 cm (1.2–1.6 in.) across. Florets irregular (zygomorphic), bluish-lilac, fused, funnel-shaped, 4-lobed, 1 lobe usually larger than rest, marginal florets larger and more irregular than others. Calyx small, many-lobed. Stamens 4. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Capitula solitary terminating stem and branches. Involucrar bracts in 2 rows, leafy, ovate, soft-haired.
  • Leaves: Opposite, short-stalked–stalkless. Blade lanceolate–elliptic, basal leaves with quite entire or toothed margins, soft-haired, greyish green, stem-leaves usually pinnately lobed, lobes narrow, terminal leaflet big (occasionally all leaves entire).
  • Fruit: Achene.
  • Habitat: River banks, hillside meadows, meadows, pastures, waste ground, field and road banks, light-filled forests, logging clearings, former slash-and-burn areas.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

The slash-and-burn style of agriculture that was common in the old days helped a lot of plants that like open space. Field scabious was a prominent weed around cultivated vegetables, but its most typical habitats were dry meadows. It is still most common in Savo and Karelia, where slash-and-burn agriculture was most widespread and survived longest. It becomes rarer towards the west, but on the Åland Islands it becomes common again and has apparently arrived from the west. The era of the widespread colonisation of wilderness areas and field-clearing was the golden age of field scabious in Finland. The species has nowadays probably become rarer due to the decline of traditional agricultural methods and the overgrowth that follows. It can usually be found on dry meadows and banks, as well as esker woods.

Field scabious’s inflorescence attracts butterflies, bumblebees, honeybees, flower flies, beetles and many other insects. It flowers for a long time and especially at the end of summer it is one of the most precious nectar plants. It is also favoured by seed-eating birds and offers a good source of nutrition for e.g. bullfinches. Its achenes have small bristles which help them stick to animal fur and birds’ feathers. Ants also carry the seeds short distances as they have a juicy appendage that ants like to eat. Cattle and people have been important for spreading the species, and it was people who originally brought it to Finland from the Russian steppe.

Small Scabious

Scabiosa columbaria

Field scabious can be confused with its close relative Devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) and also with other scabiouses, especially with Small scabious (Scabiosa columbaria). Differences; corolla with 5 unequal lobes and stem leaves narrowly pinnatifid.

Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family

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