Succisa pratensis

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Succisa pratensis
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Genus: Succisa
S. pratensis
Binomial name
Succisa pratensis
    • Asterocephalus succisa (L.) Wallr.
    • Asterocephalus tomentosus Spreng.
    • Lepicephalus succisa (L.) Eichw.
    • Scabiosa borealis Salisb.
    • Scabiosa glabrata Schott
    • Scabiosa glabrata Hegetschw.
    • Scabiosa hirsuta Mazziari
    • Scabiosa praemorsa Gilib.
    • Scabiosa prolifera Mazziari
    • Scabiosa succisa L.
    • Scabiosa succisa var. arenaria Rouy
    • Scabiosa succisa var. grandifolia Rouy
    • Scabiosa succisa var. ovalis Rouy
    • Succisa altissima Schur
    • Succisa angustula Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa aurigerana Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa beugesiaca Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa brevis Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa cagiriensis Jeanb. & Timb.-Lagr.
    • Succisa cuspidata Jord.
    • Succisa dentata Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa elliptica Jeanb. & Timb.-Lagr.
    • Succisa fuchsii Gray
    • Succisa fuscescens Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa gigantea Jeanb. & Timb.-Lagr.
    • Succisa glabrata Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa glabrata (Schott) Sweet
    • Succisa gracilescens Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa incisa Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa laetevirens Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa microcephala Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa palustris Sass
    • Succisa parvula Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa platyphylla Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa praemorsa Asch.
    • Succisa pratensis var. arenaria (Rouy) P.D.Sell
    • Succisa pratensis var. grandifolia (Rouy) P.D.Sell
    • Succisa pratensis subsp. hirsuta (Opiz) Chrtek
    • Succisa pratensis var. ovalis (Rouy) P.D.Sell
    • Succisa pratensis subsp. scotiaca (Baksay) Chrtek
    • Succisa pratensis var. subacaulis (Bernardin) P.D.Sell
    • Succisa prativaga Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa procera Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa propera Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa pyrenaica Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa rhodanensis Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa sabauda Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa stricta Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa subacaulis Bernardin
    • Succisa sylvatica Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa tardans Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa viretorum Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa vogesiaca Jord. & Fourr.
    • Succisa vulgaris J.Presl & C.Presl

Succisa pratensis, also known as devil's-bit or devil's-bit scabious, is a flowering plant in the honeysuckle family Caprifoliaceae. It differs from other similar species in that it has four-lobed flowers, whereas small scabious and field scabious have five lobes and hence it has been placed in a separate genus in the same family.[2] It also grows on damper ground.[3]


Species of scabious were used to treat scabies, and other afflictions of the skin including sores caused by the bubonic plague.[4] The word scabies comes from the Latin 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,[5] in anger against the Virgin Mary,[6] or as part of some 'devilish plot'.[7]


Succisa pratensis is a perennial herb up to 1m tall, growing from a basal rosette of simple or distantly-toothed, lanceolate leaves. Its unlobed leaves distinguish it from Knautia arvensis (field scabious).[8] The plant may be distinguished from Centaurea scabiosa (greater knapweed) by having its leaves in opposite pairs, not alternate as in knapweed. The bluish to violet (occasionally pink) flowers are borne in tight compound flower heads or capitula. Individual flowers are tetramerous, with a four-lobed epicalyx and calyx and a four-lobed corolla.[9] Male and female flowers are produced on different flower heads (gynodioecious), the female flower heads being smaller.[10] The flowering period in the British Isles is from June until October.[11]:312


Succisa pratensis is common throughout most of the British Isles,[9] western and central Europe, extending eastwards into central Asia. It is absent from eastern Asia.[12] It has been introduced to eastern North America.[13]


It grows in wet or dry grassland and heath on acid or basic soils[9] and is found in hedgerows, marshes, meadows and pastures.[14]

Succisa pratensis is a good source of nectar

The flowers are visited by various types of insects, but especially frequently by hoverflies of the genus Eristalis.[15] It is a good source of nectar and is the larval food plant of the marsh fritillary,[16] the eggs of which are laid in groups on the underside of the plant, and the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth (Hemaris tityus). As both invertebrates are rare,[17][18] their survival relies on careful management of sites containing these plant and butterfly species.

It is parasitized by the chytrid fungus Synchytrium succisae.[19]


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 (3.1 and 9.8 in). 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. Sheep are not so good as they are more efficient at removing wild plants.



  1. ^ "Succisa pratensis Moench". Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  2. ^ Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland by Rae Spencer Jones and Sarah Cuttle
  3. ^ The Illustrated Wild Flower Finder's Calendar
  4. ^ Kingfisher Field Guides - Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe
  5. ^ The I-Spy Guide to Wild Flowers by Michelin
  6. ^ Wild Flowers of Britain by Roger Phillips
  7. ^ Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland by Marjorie Blamey, Richard Fitter, Alastair Fitter
  8. ^ Usborne Spotter's Handbook of Birds, Trees, Wildflowers
  9. ^ a b c Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 796. ISBN 9780521707725.
  10. ^ A photographic guide to Wildflowers of Britain and Europe by Paul Sterry and Bob Press
  11. ^ Clapham, A.R.; Tutin, T.G.; Warburg, E.F. (1981). Excursion Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521232902.
  12. ^ Anderberg, Arne. "Succisa pratensis Moench Sw". Naturhistoriska riksmuseet, Stockholm.
  13. ^ "Succisa pratensis". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  14. ^ Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. 1968. Excursion Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521046565
  15. ^ Van Der Kooi, C. J.; Pen, I.; Staal, M.; Stavenga, D. G.; Elzenga, J. T. M. (2015). "Competition for pollinators and intra-communal spectral dissimilarity of flowers". Plant Biology. 18 (1): 56–62. doi:10.1111/plb.12328. PMID 25754608.
  16. ^ Howarth, T.G.1973. South's British Butterflies. p129. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd. ISBN 0-7232-1499-9
  17. ^ Searle, Mark. "Marsh Fritillary". Butterfly conservation. Retrieved 9 September 2018. External link in |publisher= (help)
  18. ^ Gor, Adam. "Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth". Butterfly Conservation. Butterfly Conservation. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  19. ^ Karling, J.S. 1964. Synchytrium.Academic Press: New York.

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