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Devils Bit Scabious, Bobby Bright Buttons or Pincushion Flower.

Its Irish name is ‘Odhrach bhallach’; its Scientific name is ‘Succisa pratensis’, but you may know it as ‘Devil’s Bit Scabious’;

Devils Bit Scabious is a tall plant with rounded purple-blue flowers that resemble a pincushion. It is a close relative of the Teasel family and like its relative, it is a rich and valuable late source of nectar and pollen for insects.

Tortoiseshell butterflies feasting on the nectar of the ‘Devil’s Bit Scabious’ plant.
Picture: G.Willoughby

As Tipperary wildflower and insect expert, Mr John Fogarty, explained to me yesterday; all butterflies love it as indeed do all bees, with same a major food-plant for so many insects, both as adults and larvae, attracted to its pincushion-like head. Indeed, this wildflower is the main larval food-plant of the now seriously threatened Marsh Fritillary butterfly, latter said to prefer where the ‘Devil’s-bit scabious’ plant chooses to grow.

Blue-violet Devil’s Bit Scabious growing on the Double Ditch, Mill Road, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.
Picture: G. Willoughby.

Blue-violet in colour, this medium sized perennial with deep green, blotchy, oval shaped leaves can be located in marshes and pastures, brightening up areas where it flowers, (in this case on the Great Famine Double Ditch, Mill Road, Thurles, Co. Tipperary) from June to October. Sadly this plant can be scarce presently in areas where intensive farming in being carried out.

Mr Fogarty points out that the plant’s more common name ‘scabious’ comes from the herb’s traditional usage as a folk medicine to treat scabies, latter a rather itchy skin condition caused by a tiny burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. Legend states that this plant, ‘Devils Bit Scabious’ got its name due to the fact that it has an abruptly truncated, short root which folklore dictates that the Devil bit off in a fit of annoyance, at the medicinal properties of this most attractive plant.

The ‘Devil’s Bit Mountain‘, north of Thurles has no bearing on the plant’s name, but it does confirm that the Devil spent an inordinate amount of time here, over the years, in and around Thurles, with some people claiming that he has actually never vacated the area; and can be seen influencing political outcomes, during years when local and general elections occur.

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