Field scabious Knautia arvensis) or Cab an ghasáin in Irish is an attractive wildflower which is frequently seen now in most places in Ireland except the west. (1a;1b) It grows on roadside verges, hedge banks and dry grasslands. Its stems are hairy and wiry, with a scabby appearance and its height can vary from 40 cm to 100 cm. The flat flower heads are lilac coloured. It is a valuable nectar and pollen plant and attracts plenty of bees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies. It is particularly useful for pollinators because of its long growing season from June to September. Finches eat its seeds. It was used to treat skin conditions such as scabies.
Devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) or Odhrach bhallach or Greim an diabhail in Irish is common now on hedge banks, grasslands and bogs. It can grow to 120 cm in height. The round, purple-blue flower heads which resemble a pincushion are nectar-rich and attract a range of butterflies such as Small tortoiseshells, Peacocks and Red admirals. (2a;2b;2c). These all lay their eggs later on nettles. Devil’s bit scabious is the foodplant of the caterpillars of the scarce Marsh fritillary butterfly which is mainly found in boggy places in the centre and the west of Ireland. Its long oval leaves differ from the deeply divided leaves of Field scabious. It is supposed to have derived its name from the fact that the root is truncated, and it was said this was caused when the devil bit it off because he was envious of its many medicinal properties. Like Field scabious it was used to cure skin conditions such as scabies and itch.