Succisa pratensis
Succisa pratensis Moench, also known as Devil's-bit Scabious, is a flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

 of the genus Succisa
Succisa is a genus of flowering plants in the Dipsacaceae family.Species include the Devil's bit scabious, Succisa pratensis....

in the family Dipsacaceae
The Dipsacaceae, or teasel family, of the order Dipsacales contains 350 species of perennial or biennial herbs and shrubs in eleven genera. Native to most temperate climates, they are found in Europe, Asia and Africa...

. It differs from other similar species in that it has 4 lobed flowers, whereas Small Scabious and Field scabious have 5 lobes and hence it has been placed in a separate genus in the same family. It also grows on damper ground.

Its leaves are also un-lobed unlike Field scabious, and are arranged in opposite pairs. The leaves and plant can be confused with Greater Knapweed however Knapweed has leaves that are alternate, not opposite.

It prefers moist soil - damp meadows and woods, lowland heath, marshy areas; but will tolerate drier conditions. Male and female flowers are produced on different heads, the female being smaller. Flowers from June until October.

It is a good source of nectar and is the foodplant of Marsh fritillary
Marsh Fritillary
The Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia, is a butterfly of the Nymphalidae family.It is widespread in the Palaearctic region from Ireland in the West to Yakutia in the East, and to North-west China and Mongolia in the South.E. aurinia is represented by many subspecies.The most widely accepted...

, whose eggs are laid in groups on the underside of the plant, and Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth Hemaris tityus
Hemaris tityus
Hemaris tityus, the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, is one of two similar species of sphingid moth occurring in Britain that closely mimic a bumblebee. It has a wide range, from Ireland across temperate Europe to the Ural Mountains, western Siberia, Novosibirsk and the Altai...

. As both plant and invertebrates are rare, their survival relies on careful management of sites containing these species.


Species of scabious were used to treat Scabies
Scabies , known colloquially as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin infection that occurs among humans and other animals. It is caused by a tiny and usually not directly visible parasite, the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, which burrows under the host's skin, causing intense allergic itching...

, and other afflictions of the skin including sores caused by the Bubonic Plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

. The word scabies comes from the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word for "scratch" (scabere). The short black root was in folk tales bitten off by the devil, angry at the plant's ability to cure these ailments, in anger against the Virgin Mary, or as part of some 'devilish plot'.


The aim is to produce an uneven patchwork of short and long vegetation by the end of the grazing period, between 8 and 25 cm. This is to allow the Devil's Bit Scabious food plant to grow.

This can be achieved through low intensity grazing (also known as extensive grazing) using cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

. Sheep are not so good as they are more efficient at removing wild plants.
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